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Disney's 'When You Wish' at Tuacahn allows audiences to dare to dream

"WHEN YOU WISH," through Oct. 16, Tuacahn Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins (435-652-3300 or tuacahn.org)

IVINS, Washington County — “When you wish upon a star / Makes no difference who you are / Anything your heart desires / Will come to you.”

It’s a promise that was first made back in 1940 by the ever-wise Jiminy Cricket that is being fulfilled at Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins by way of its production of Disney’s “When You Wish.”

The show, which is premiering at Tuacahn and derives its name from Cricket’s now-classic ballad, combines some of the most beloved songs from Disney’s repertoire into one theatrical experience. It’s framed from the perspective of a young girl, known to the audience only as Little Girl, who receives a storybook from her mother right before she goes to sleep with the assurance that “no matter how your heart is grieving / if you keep on believing / the dream that you wish will come true.”

As she slumbers, Little Girl gets to do what children and adults alike have dreamed of for years: She becomes a part of the stories. Whether it’s riding in a canoe with Pocahontas, learning to dance with King Louie from “The Jungle Book,” becoming a mermaid and gliding onstage with Ariel, sitting at the table of Belle and the Beast for “Be Our Guest,” going on strike with Jack and the other Newsies or feeding the birds with Mary Poppins, the audience can vicariously live out the dream of being part of the magic through Little Girl.

The result is a show that is nothing short of brilliant as the music, acting and choreography combine to fill Tuacahn’s iconic red rock canyon walls with pure joy that is completely contagious.

Little Girl’s story is seamlessly incorporated into the 12 different Disney tales visited throughout “When You Wish.” Audiences periodically return to the young girl’s bedroom as she wakes up from her dream, but the music and the script are written in such a way that the transitions back to Little Girl’s world are never jarring. At one point, the dream is sweetly woven into Little Girl’s reality when she wakes up from a scarier part of her dream and her mother comforts her by singing “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan. As the song progresses, Little Girl and Mother are joined by Kala singing the same song to Young Tarzan as well as Tarzan and Jane singing together, which creates one of the more tender moments of the show.

In addition to songs from the 12 stories portrayed, other songs familiar to Disney fans also find their way into the production, including “Cinderella’s” “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” which serves as an introduction to the show, and “That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted,” which is playfully incorporated into the story of “Snow White.”

Bridgette Biggers as Little Girl didn’t miss a beat as she wove in and out of the various stories. The 12-year-old fits the part as a young dreamer, but Biggers’ singing, dancing and acting capabilities are beyond her years. She rises to the occasion offered by each story and holds her own next to seasoned actors and actresses.

Andrew Graham led the live orchestra with gusto, tackling the wide variety of music genres covered over the course of the different stories, from the gospel-inspired strains of the Muses’ “Hercules” to Sebastian’s characteristic Calypso sound in “Under the Sea.” While the fervor of the orchestra’s playing filled the canyon air with beautiful strains, there were a few moments when the singing of the actresses and actors was hard to hear next to the exuberance of the orchestra.

Tuacahn’s technical staff pulled out all the stops for this show with attractive set pieces for each story and a slew of special effects. It seemed as if every special effect in the amphitheater’s tool belt was utilized, including flooding the stage and using a water curtain, zip lines, projections onto the canyon wall, fog machines and more. The audience cheered almost as loudly for the effects as they did for the actors and actresses, including during instances when live horses ran across the stage and as Aladdin and Jasmine took a magic carpet ride over the audience. The use of effects was far from showy and instead created an air of magic that proved to be necessary in the staging of this production.

Top it off with a cast of talented actors and actresses switching through multiple roles with ease, dazzling choreography and first-class vocal performances, and the result is a production that gives audiences the license to dare to dream.

While the future of “When You Wish” is yet to be determined, it is hard to imagine another venue being able to surpass the magic achieved during its inaugural run at Tuacahn.

Email: wbutters@deseretnews.com, Twitter: WhitneyButters