PERRY — As many a millennial can attest, Disney’s The Little Mermaid was one of the backdrops of that generation. The 1989 Disney animated movie, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, inspired many fantastical daydreams. Even now, as adults, many still delight in this timeless story. In 2008, Disney brought the musical to the stage with many of the same songs from the original 1989 movie, and some new songs with music by Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, and a book by Doug Wright. With the release of the live action adaptation film earlier this year, it makes sense that community theatres would choose to produce the timeless musical. Heritage Theatre in Perry is among those this year that are producing the enchanting musical.

Show closes September 9, 2023.

Director Tara Wilson has assembled a large cast to help tell the story (which is essentially the same as the original film’s plot). The small stage at Heritage theatre sometimes felt cramped, but it was obvious that the cast was present in the experience. Many cast members were all smiles as they entered the stage. The adorable sailors in “Fathoms Below” looked to be enjoying a little bit of improv as they drank their “grog” and sailed their ship. Cast filed into the theatre by use of the aisles in “Under the Sea” and surrounded the audience with voices and joyful energy. Candice Dallin expertly choreographed the dances to convey story. Dallin used the abilities of the cast to create pleasant movement and character, especially in “Kiss the Girl.”

The Little Mermaid can be a technically demanding show with a lot of special effects. I really liked the uncomplicated ways that Wilson handled those moments. When Ariel rescued Eric from downing in the sea, simple fabric and lighting created the effect. When Ariel’s grotto was destroyed, a straightforward and practical effect was used. The magic of “Under the Sea” was enhanced by the use of dual bubble machines above the audience. However, there was a missed mark. Sadly, the lights used in the eel’s costumes and Triton’s staff were so dim that they were only noticeably visible during the dark of scene changes.

The costumes, designed by Brittani Rae McCarty and Amber Beecher, were simple, effective, and creative. Using clear bell-shaped umbrellas for squids and large stars affixed to actors to portray starfish and a multitude of other elements helped establish sea creatures. There were a few moments where it looked like something did not quite belong, such as cartoon socks or modern leggings. It was distracting, but a casual attendee would probably overlook these costume pieces.

Colton Kraus played Sebastian with a convincing dialect and an exasperated attitude. He was adorable in his interactions with Ariel, King Triton, and the mersisters. At one comedic moment, at the end of “Under the Sea,” Kraus was alone on stage, talking to himself humorously. Throughout the show, Kraus was fresh and delightful to watch.

Ariel was gracefully portrayed by Emileigh Griffiths. Griffiths filled the character with a young wide-eyed wonder. She had a lovely voice during “Part of your World” and was enchanting as the voiceless ingenue, charming the Prince. Scuttle the clownish seagull, skillfully played by Justin “Spot” Beecher, toed the line between ridiculous and delightful. Beecher enunciated clearly so that every malapropism could be enjoyed by the audience. His tap number “Positoovity” was my favorite of the night, as it looked as if the actors all were enjoying the movement.

The Little Mermaid is not complete without a villainous Ursula, played in this production by Lindy Combe. Combe was deliciously evil as she plotted with Flotsam and Jetsam (played by brothers Steven and Michael Mair). Combe delivered vocally with “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” where she belted with ease.

The brightest spot in the cast was the young actor portraying Flounder, Andrew King, who was born for the stage. It is rare to see such a competent and believable actor at such a young age. King was clear and charming in his interactions with Ariel throughout, but even more so when he had to tell Ariel that he had told king Triton (played by James Shurtleff) her secret.

The production was not without its hiccups. On opening night, there was a lot of issues with sound. I had a hard time hearing certain actors, especially Grimsby. The set changes felt long and labored, especially in act 2, when the show switches from place to place so quickly. The pacing suffered a little because of this, and at 2.5 hours, I was feeling like I was packed in with other audience members like sardines. Additionally, the set painting did not look finished; I could clearly see bright screws from the audience. I hope that these issues will be resolved quickly and have no doubt the rest of the run will be trouble free.

One of the biggest concerns I had with the production was the cast entering from the lobby. Cast would enter into the dark theatre through the main doors and light up the entire audience with the lobby light. The light was very distracting multiple times during the first act. Hopefully those lights can be dimmed so to not be as distracting.

The best part about attending a community theatre production like The Little Mermaid is the youngest audience members that attend in full costume. Attending opening night were multiple adorable little Ariels, and at quiet moments their little voices seemed to pop up to ask a question or to blurt out a comment. There did not seem to be an age minimum listed for the production, and the presence of eager children was delightful. Some patrons may not enjoy those little interruptions from the youngest in the audience, but it felt endearing and appropriate in the setting.

While some of the elements felt unfinished or rushed, I truly enjoyed the Heritage Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid. It would be a great show to bring the family to; kids will be delighted and entertained.

The Little Mermaid plays Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Saturdays at 2:30 PM through September 9, at the Heritage Theatre (2505 South Highway 89, Perry). Tickets are $10-$16. For more information, visit