Review: Tuacahn’s ‘When You Wish’ offers minor changes from 2015 but doesn’t mess too much with success

Production photo from Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of "When You Wish" courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

REVIEW — After a 2018 season that included a world premiere (“Prince of Egypt”) and another new musical (“Matilda the Musical”), both somewhat bold choices, Tuacahn Center for the Arts has brought back a reworked version of its highly successful 2015 production of Disney’s “When You Wish.”

The 2015 production was arguably one of the best productions in Tuacahn’s 20-year history, so why not give patrons more of what they want? Especially if it’s first-rate?

Most fans of the first production loved the show’s rapid-fire Disney highlights revue-style presentation, and this year’s production returns with minor changes in the material and some very welcome and well-executed additions.

Director/choreographer Jeffry Denman is back at the helm and knows better than to mess too much with a successful formula. His deft directorial touch keeps the pacing brisk, and the choreography is wonderfully fun and makes the best of Tuacahn’s expansive stage.

One key to the show’s success is how it’s rooted in the imagination of a young girl (played by Afton Grace Higbee), whose Disney dreams come alive prompted by the beautiful bedtime lullabies of her mother (Rachel Robertson Cox). Throughout the show, the talented Higbee playfully frolics with all the famous Disney characters, which weaves a nice commonality throughout – and let’s face it, also fulfills many of our own dreams.

The cast comprises an ensemble of stellar performers – many of whom are talented enough to be the leads in the full versions of the Disney shows – who are really having fun bringing these iconic songs to life.

The best elements of this year’s “When You Wish” are, not coincidentally, the superlative additions of songs from the underrated “Princess and the Frog” and the fabulous “Moana” that close Act One. Patrons with restless little ones will appreciate Act One’s running time of under 50 minutes and a production that doesn’t feel too long – especially with a jam-packed Act Two, with the best element, surprisingly to some degree, being a lively “Aladdin” section (special kudos to Wilkie Ferguson III, who plays the Genie).

Production photo from Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of “When You Wish” courtesy of Tuacahn Center for the Arts, St. George News

We can quibble over some song selection choices – nothing from “Newsies”? – but you’ve got to respect a production that doesn’t always go with the obvious (thankfully, there was no drawn-out “Be Our Guest”) and injects some soul from the lesser known film “Hercules,” coming soon to the Broadway stage.

Not everyone will appreciate the overdose of Disney on display in “When You Wish,” but for those who can’t get enough, Tuacahn’s new production delivers close to a Disney theme park experience – with far shorter lines.

Disney’s “When You Wish” performs multiple dates weekly through Oct. 24. Tickets range between $32 to $99 and can be purchased by calling 435-652-3300 or going to the Tuacahn website

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