“I wanna be where the people are. I wanna see, wanna see them dancing. Walking around on those — what do you call 'em? Oh, feet.”
If you recently saw a red-headed mermaid with a dinglehopper, a cleaver-wielding French chef chasing a musically inclined crab or a chipper blue and yellow flounder near Alta High School, there’s a good reason why.
Those “performin’ fortunate souls” were among 60 Alta High students who put on the “The Little Mermaid” musical at the spectacular new Performing Arts Center on the northwest corner of the Sandy school.
The classic Disney musical was the first performance in the state-of-the-art theater — a trove with treasures untold — which seats almost 1,400 people (and mermaids). The two-year construction project was funded by a $283 million bond approved by voters in November 2017.
“This has been an unbelievable experience,” said Alta High teacher Linze Struiksma, who directed the sea and land creatures. “This has been my favorite show I’ve directed in eight years. We dealt with so much to get here. They’ve had to buoy each other up.”
The seven-show run began last Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, and concluded Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Fortunately for the character Ariel, the lovestruck mermaid who dreamed of exchanging her fins for legs, the dashing Prince Eric fell in love with her every show — despite Ursula’s worst intentions.
Alta High senior Chloe Barrus, a dazzling performer with a dulcet voice, called it “amazing” to play the lead role of a Disney princess she grew up adoring.
“Ariel was just such a pretty princess. I always loved watching her,” Barrus said. “It’s like a blast from the past. It’s nice being able to go back to my childhood as I’m going into adulthood.”
COVID-19 issues forced a cancellation of the school’s scheduled grand opening musical showcase in the Performing Arts Center last fall, so the gifted group was thrilled to be able to finally perform daily in front of a safely distanced audience that filled one fourth of the auditorium.
“It’s a lot of the cast’s senior year and it’s our last show,” Barrus said. “It’s just been so amazing to be able to perform it and to be able to share what we’ve worked so hard on with people from the community.”
Putting together a detailed production during the pandemic required ingenuity, patience and caution. Students were tested for COVID-19 every two weeks, some rehearsals were done via Zoom video calls, and masks were worn more often than vivid costumes.
Senior London Ashby played Grimsby and assisted behind the scenes with the stage crew. One of his favorite features of the theater is the high-tech lighting system, which, for example, filled the auditorium with a rainbow of colors when King Triton brandished his magical trident. The sound system also provides an enhanced acoustical experience for audiences and performers, he noted.
“It’s miles of advancement from where we were last year,” Ashby said. “It’s been really nice.”
Struiksma described the new Performing Arts Center as being a “game-changer” for educational and performance opportunities.
“It’s very fortunate. It’s an amazing building,” added Alta senior Dylan Thomas, who played the eclectic and explosive Chef Louis and was on the stage crew. “There’s a lot of stuff we get to do here, and I’m excited for the future generations.”