“The Little Mermaid” – Tuacahn Amphitheatre

This review aired on KBAQ August4, 2014


Tuacahn Amphitheatre
Ivins, Utah

While in Cedar City for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, I ventured south to Ivins just outside of St. George where the outdoor 2,000 seat Tuacahn Amphitheatre presents three summer family musicals.  I saw Disney’s stage version of “The Little Mermaid.”  This theater is a dramatically beautiful space where most of the elaborate productions use of the theater’s rain curtain and a stage that floods frequently throughout each performance.  This summer in addition to “The Little Mermaid,” Tuacahn is staging “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

This huge theater has a remarkable sound system and I didn’t miss one word of “The Little Mermaid,” something not usually the case at our local theater that presents touring Broadway musicals, ASU Gammage.

Tuacahn focuses on family entertainment and there were lots of children at the performance I attended.  The little ones, many of them seeing live theater for the first time, were entranced but for discriminating adult theatergoers, “The Little Mermaid” revealed the show’s weaknesses which includes several mediocre added songs and the badly belabored but simple-minded story about the mermaid Ariel and her quest that, of course, ends happily when she finds the perfect romance in dashing Prince Eric.  The inane plot with endlessly silly and unnecessary story details keeps the musical dragging on forever.  The cast included Emma Degerstedt’s appropriately feminine Ariel and James Royce Edwards’ stalwartly handsome Prince Eric.

Tuacahn stages entertainments for family audiences and the theater has a special relationship with Disney Theatrical Productions so they’ve premiered several Disney musicals that come from Disney cartoons.  The capacity audience seemed delighted by “The Little Mermaid’s” overused watery spectacle but sophisticated theater is not Tuacahn’s goal.  Tuacahn uses a live orchestra but, unlike most theaters, they hide the orchestra in a small enclosed room so the music is heard through the sound system so it never sounds natural.

If you go to the area for its beautiful natural scenery and have children along, an evening at Tuacahn provides professionally staged musicals that the kids will enjoy and their chaperones will find the theater’s spectacle and elaborate effects unlike anything previously seen in a live theater.

Serious theatergoers should focus instead on the brilliant Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City that I previously reviewed.  I had a great theatergoing time in Utah.  It’s worth a trip in the summer when live theater here in the Valley is so limited.  For tickets, call the Tuacahn Amphitheatre box office at 800-746-9882 or order tickets online at www.tuacahn.org.

Grade: B