Front Row Reviewers

On Pitch Performing Arts Production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is “Positoovity” Charming

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Keola Kinghorn, Front Row Reviewers

Since Ariel the underwater princess has shown her lovely face fairly often to musical theater goers in Utah, what does On Pitch Performing Arts’ (OPPA!) The Little Mermaid at Layton High School offer that you haven’t already seen? How about 50+ seagulls? This huge cast has over 90 members of all ages, and a large portion of them are very young. During the music number, “Positoovity,” Scuttle (played by Carly Haberman) accompanied by the talented ensemble dressed as seagulls, fill the stage, including one adorable seagull chick that gets a ride on his dad’s shoulders. I have never seen this song performed this way, with so many costumes, and I doubt I will ever see it again. Brandon Stauffer, Executive Director of OPPA!, said on his social media profile, “I’m so proud that OPPA! is a place where people of all ages, abilities, talent levels, backgrounds, sizes, and cultures are welcomed and accepted in all ways in all <OPPA!> shows?” In fact, according to Stauffer, this cast is so large that they needed two costume designers, Ali Linhart and Anna Graff Rice, who make our trip under and above the sea a wonderful spectacle.

The Little Mermaid with book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater was originally produced by Disney Theatrical Productions. This show is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film produced by Howard Ashman and John Musker, written and directed by Musker and Ron Clements. The story closely follows the movie’s plot about a  beautiful mermaid (Aspen Larkin) who dreams of the world above the sea. Ariel should be happy, but she feels trapped undersea by her father, King Triton (Matt Higgins). Higgins as the King of sea manages to strike a balance of a loving yet strict parent, and he looks pretty handsome while doing it in his royal robes. Ariel is a passionate, headstrong teenager and wants what she cannot have — to live on land and for this, she’ll need legs, not fins. When she falls in love with the handsome human Prince Eric (Jaxon Alvord), Ariel is more determined than ever to gain a pair of legs. But her only option is to defy her furious father and bargain with the Sea Witch Ursula (Ashley Ramsey) for those legs but, giving her voice as the price of entry onto dry land. With the help of Flounder the fish (Keller Peck /Julianna Wright), Scuttle the seagull (Carly Haberman) and officious court composer Sebastian the crab (John Wright), Ariel must wordlessly gain Prince Eric’s love within three days — or lose her soul to the dastardly witch. (Ursula’s hope is that she then can bargain for Queen of the Seas by vanquishing Triton and giving Ariel back to her father,) Will Ariel be able to dance her way into Prince Eric’s heart? Or is she doomed?

The first thing I noticed about this show were the lights, designed by Christine Detwiler, because they are utilized amply and professionally for this show: the space goes dark immediately during the intro and lights begin to dance in purple and blue flowers and coral shapes. The set, designed by Stauffer, also utilizes a lot of creative light effects, especially in Ursula’s lair; glowing stairs that led up to a dark platform that showcase a glowing clam with Ursula’s pearls inside. Even Ursula’s eels, Flotsam (Flash Kiernan) and Jetsam (Gavin McCormack) glow as they ride their light-up hoverboards.

Speaking of eels, Kiernan and McCormack have an electrifying duet, “Sweet Child” with spot on haunting harmonies–I loved how they sang together. Ramsey as Ursula brought me back to my childhood with her perfect evil laugh. She is a brilliant actress and so fun to watch. She has some really great moments in the lesser known song, “I Want the Good Times Back.”

I could not imagine anyone filling the role of Ariel better than Larkin as the red-headed female performs this rather tricky role, especially in the second act when Ariel’s talking is limited because of the plot. This fine actress manages to be as charming as ever. When she does open her mouth to sing, I kept thinking, keep singing! Keep singing!

Alvord as Prince Eric is a fitting match for Larkin’s Ariel. The two have wonderful chemistry and their voices blend well together with romance and spunk.  Alvord’s solos are just as gorgeous on their own.

I so enjoyed Peck as Flounder, especially in his solo step-out number “She’s In Love.” In this number, glow cubes are utilized by choreographer Bailey Porter with the mersisters (Jenn Tate, Timery Reis, Angie Petty, Nara Morgan, Katherine Gammon, and Dayna Shirley) but Peck steals the stage. His costume is really unique, with wide yellow pants with a small hoop at the bottom, long polka dot socks, and a fin at the back of the outfit.

Haberman is a wonderfully animated Scuttle and so very funny. She first enters from the back from the theater and runs down the aisle, which is clever. Alvord doesn’t have the typical French accent as Chef Louie but his ridiculous laugh is just as hilarious. Wright does not disappoint as Sebastian. His voice is very characteristic of the Disney movie crab and the costuming is so creative. Dan Tate as Grimsby Prince is heart-warming, especially when he interacts with Larkin.

Director Heather Ann Jackson had her work cut out for her with the this large and glorious cast, but the ensemble “swims” together well in this show, with quick scene changes and strong chorus numbers. During “Under the Sea”, the ensemble  is on point and the costumes are so vibrant and fun, including swordfish, jellyfish, turtles, and starfish. Later, during a storm, lights flicker while the boat is quickly disassembled by the company. And during “Kiss the Girl,” the ensemble comes out with glowing lights that look like plants; Scuttle and Sebastian create a magical number. Watch out for the huge tentacles, and the seagulls’ tap dance—you’ll want to catch this for sure. Jackson said, “Working with this huge cast has been such a great experience, the talent we have in this show blows me away.”

After watching this over the top (surface?) fun musical, I have concluded that OPPA!’s The Little Mermaid will delight the old and the young, no matter how many times you’ve been “Under the Sea”.

On Pitch Performing Arts presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid, book by Doug Wright Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater.
Layton High School Auditorium, 440 Wasatch Dr, Layton, Utah 84041 August 5, 7, 10-12, 2023, Doors open at 7:00 PM, performance beginning at 7:30 PM.
Tickets: General Admission, $17.50 (plus processing), Call Box Office at 385-209-1557, Layton Residents can get a discount,
Contact: 385-209-1557,
On Pitch Performing Arts
The Little Mermaid Facebook event.

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