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Murray Journal

‘The Little Mermaid’ takes Murray Amphitheater stage in June

Jun 08, 2021 12:31PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The cast of Murray Arts Council’s “The Little Mermaid”: (l-r) Alan LaFleur as Ursula, Kat Hawley Cook as Ariel, Thomas Sant as Prince Eric, and Quentin Hodges as Sebastian. (Photo courtesy Candace Tippetts)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Audiences are invited under the sea and to the Murray Amphitheater for Murray Arts Council’s production of “The Little Mermaid.” The Disney musical will run June 17-19 and 21-23 at 8 p.m.

Disney’s “Little Mermaid” is the musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale about the journey of a young mermaid who is willing to give up her life in the sea as a mermaid to gain human legs. Most have seen the animated Disney version, and this production has new musical numbers in addition to the ones in the animated version. 

Veteran director Candace Tippetts helms this year’s production, and it marks her return to Murray’s Arts in the Park theater. She has a personal connection to this particular play. 

“It just so happens that I am a direct descendant of Hans Christian Andersen,” Tippetts said.

Tippetts directed “Thoroughly Modern Millie” on the Murray Amphitheater stage in 2018 and “Fiddler on the Roof,” performed at Murray High School, in 2017—both for Murray Arts Council. She has also directed productions for Midvale City Performing Arts, Bountiful Performing Arts and the Grand Theatre.

Unlike the film version of “The Little Mermaid,” the theater production includes new songs “Human Stuff,” “One Step Closer” and “The Contest.” Some songs from the film are extended, such as “Fathoms Below.”

Taking the lead role of Ariel is Kat Hawley Cook. Cook is a musical theater student at UVU and has performed along the Wasatch Front, including at Sundance Summer Theatre. Newcomer Thomas Sant performs Prince Eric. Sant is a medical student at the University of Utah and is a newcomer to the stage. Quentin Hodges takes on Sebastian the crab. A graduate of Murray High School, Hodges is an Academic Advisor at the University of Utah School of Business.

Performing the role of Ursula is Alan LaFleur. LaFleur is a second-grade teacher at South Jordan Elementary School and played Tevye in Murray Arts Council’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

“Many do not know that Disney based the character of Ursula on a drag queen and that the original Broadway cast was to include Harvey Fierstein,” Tippetts said.  

LaFleur also pulls double duty as assistant director and choreographer. He has been doing theater for over 40 years, participating as actor, director or choreographer.  

Off stage, an experienced team is helping “The Little Mermaid” come to life in Murray. Behind the orchestral baton, Anthony Buck serves as musical director. Buck also serves as the assistant director of Utah Lyric Opera and is an adjunct professor at Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College. Former South Summit High School drama teacher Karen Allred handles costumes. She costumed “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for Murray Arts Council in 2019. Set designer Jared August will transform the stage into an underwater kingdom.

This year’s productions are more hopeful, after COVID not only limited the Amphitheater productions last year but shut down the only offering after some of the cast contracted coronavirus.

“The hardest thing is rehearsing with face masks and striving to social distance,” Tippetts said. “Cast members, if not fully vaccinated, have been required to do weekly COVID testing. To date, we have all been safe and healthy and are looking forward to a fully vaccinated cast soon.”

Tippetts hopes the audience picks up on little surprises throughout the show.

“We are adding lots of Disney surprises to this production. Look for Disney princesses and other famous Disney characters throughout the production. We will also be having photo ops with our Disney princesses and main characters at each performance,” Tippetts said. 

Due to COVID precautions, seating will be limited to 650 per night. Tickets can be purchased via Venmo at Viola [email protected] or in advance at the Murray Parks and Recreation Office (296 E. Murray Park Ave.) or at the gate approximately 30 minutes before showtime.