OREM — The inspiration behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the dueling gangs of West Side Story just might have been a talented and energetic group of dancers from the ancient city of Ninevah. No, you didn’t miss that part of the well-known Bible story, it was just one of the many entertaining little additions Director Dennis Angle wove into his retelling of the story in Jonah and the Great Fish. In this first-ever stage play from Liken the Scriptures, you will see this biblical story with new eyes as you follow the imagination of a young girl who is struggling to belong at a new school and finds comfort as she likens Jonah’s experience to her own. You’ll also be introduced to a group of mariners and their “cumbersome cadence” of Spanish accents, a glamorous trio of singing crabs, and a frightening gang of sharks. OK, the sharks aren’t really scary, but they definitely add some great humor!

The music was original and upbeat and unlike a really long talent show that you sit through just to be polite, I really enjoyed listening to the cast sing! I think even Simon Cowell would have approved of talent like David Osmond (the name speaks for itself, but you may have also seen him in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and Katherine Nelson (Emma Smith: My Story). A few stand-out songs are “The Night of Ninevah,” “Whose Side Are You On?,” “A Place Where I Belong,” and “Thou Hast Brought Me Up.” It was obvious that everyone on stage tonight loved being part of this show and that made it very enjoyable to watch.

Because this production is also intended for film, the scene changes were quite long; it’s well worth the wait, but hard on the eyes once the the lights come back on. At least they didn’t try to reenact the entire 72 hours Jonah spent inside the fish! The design team did a fantastic job creating and assembling sets that took you to the city of Ninevah, the deck of a ship (complete with a captain and his charming crew), the depths of the ocean, inside a giant fish, and back to dry land again. Every scene was creative, colorful, and unique. The sound was too loud almost every time the bullying sharks showed up and there was definitely way too much smoke during the storm scene. Audience members at least ten rows back were using the program to fan it out of their faces. Those things aside, there were some really cool things happening on stage. The fish costumes were very creative and the actors did an impressive job of giving the appearance of swimming despite the complete lack of water. The scene where Jonah sank into the ocean was also well done; if you can overlook Jonah’s harness and the chords that lowered him down, he really appears to be floating on water.

This show is not only entertaining but also teaches some great lessons about new beginnings, the importance of good friends, and doing what we know is right. If you’re looking for family-friendly entertainment with a creative story, some great tunes, and a lot of humor, be sure to check out Jonah and the Giant Fish. I’m sure, like me, you’ll be “Liken” it!

Jonah and the Great Fish plays through February 15, Mon-Sat 7:30 PM. Performances take place in the SCERA Center: Showhouse II, located at 745 South State Street in Orem. Tickets range from $7.50-12. For more information call (801) 225-ARTS or buy tickets online at SCERA.org.