BLUFFDALE — Before the latest production of The Little Mermaid started at Bluffdale Arts Council the organizer announced the mission of their council is to allow everyone who wants to participate in theatre a chance to do so. They definitely lived up to that resolution. With a cast of over 200 people, this mission is clear. I’ve been to a lot of arts council productions over the years including ones at Bluffdale Arts and I’ve never seen anything on the scale of what I saw tonight. It was truly a sight to behold!

The Little Mermaid is of course based on the landmark animated Disney film with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Glenn Slater is added for this version with a book by Doug Wright. It honestly isn’t my favorite adaptation of a Disney animated film but as with any musical it’s all about what the company does with it that makes it special and that was definitely case here. It was a such a neat experience to be part of such a community event.

Obviously it goes without saying that the job of producer/director team of Laura Garner and Keisha Peterson is daunting with so many people and parts to coordinate together. Just getting the over 50 little girl mermaids dressed and coordinated together would be near impossible. They also had seagulls who tap-danced, leap frogs that leaped and sailors who sailed to name a few. They were all dressed and taught choreography by a large group of 6 choreographers.

With such a massive cast in such a large auditorium (Hidden Valley Middle School) I was expecting to put up with a lot of microphone issues but perhaps the most amazing feet of the night is how few of those there were. Obviously not everyone in a 200+ cast is microphoned but a lot were and it pretty much went off without a hitch. Sound designers Ralph Dabling and Karla Zimmerman deserve a ton of praise for their work in that department.

Of course any production of The Little Mermaid comes down to the quality of the Ariel to lead the show and Amalie Strongin is up for the challenge at Bluffdale Arts. She has the dancing chops and expressiveness needed for the second half of the show after she gives up her voice but also a lovely soprano for the earlier portions including a strong “Part of Your World (Reprise)” I enjoyed how in that number they used fabric to create the sea and had it splashing up onto her at just the right moment.

One could tell some of the other leads are new to performing but all I really look for in an Arts Council production like this is are the performers doing their best and is it a positive community event and that is definitely the case here. Samuel Lindsay got more confident as the night went on as Prince Eric and Cassidy Swenson hams it up as the slinky sleezy Ursula. I also really enjoyed Kallie Curtis‘ Scuttle where she leads an entire team of tap-dancing seagulls in “Positoovity.” Brittany Weidauer and Kat Chevrier brought a lot of personality to small roles as Flotsam and Jetsam and Kent Randall is hilarious as Chef Louis.

Clearly a production on such a scale is going to have a limited budget but it impressed me all they were able to do with it, particularly with costumes. For example, there is a calypso band which is part of “Under the Sea” and other scenes and each of their costumes were colorful and creative with instruments made out of foam and other materials. In fact, during “Under the Sea” the audience became surrounded by performers in costume all singing and dancing. I don’t know when I’ve seen more people involved in a production and everyone seemingly having the time of their lives. It was a joy to witness.

That said there were smaller moments within the production that also worked well. One of my favorite scenes was the “If Only (Reprise)” where Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian (Douglas Franklin) and King Triton (David Henry) all sing about their worries going into the final day of the 3-day challenge. The harmonizing between the 4 was subtle and well executed and a nice break from the big crowds of the rest of the production.

The Little Mermaid is only playing for 3 days in Bluffdale and the tickets will obviously sell out quickly with such a large cast so I would encourage you to jump on that as fast as you can. It was such  wonderful experience to be part of a community event where everyone was singing and dancing together. I can’t recommend it more highly. I hope everyone at Bluffdale continues on with these ambitious and inclusive productions. Who knows how many they will inspire to become involved in theatre as a result? I certainly was grateful for this night to be part of their world.

The Bluffdale Arts Council presents the Little Mermaid March 8th and 9th at 7pm at Hidden Valley Middle School 15410 S Harmon Day Dr Bluffdale, UT 84065. Price of tickets is not listed. For more information see

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.