Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Celebrating the Sea

The Little Mermaid lights up the Orpheum

Photo courtesy of the Hennepin Theatre Trust.
It's great to see some fresh Disney grace the stage. As beloved as classics like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast are, they come so often that it's easy to forget what an awesome, deep catalog of shows Disney has to offer. The Little Mermaid is just such a show, bringing the natural world magic of The Lion King with a princess story worthy of Tangled to the stage. 

I will assume that most readers are familiar with the story, so I won't repeat the plot, but please take note: Alan Menken (who wrote the music for the film version of The Little Mermaid) added in a plethora of new songs for this stage adaptation, so things will be a little different than you might expect. Some of the new songs are the best of the bunch, including "She's In Love" and the gorgeous four voice harmonies of "If Only." The classics are here in full display as well, including beautiful performances of "Part of Your World" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls." "Under the Sea" has an explosion of vibrant seafaring costumes, including a spectacular pair of jellyfish; the kids will adore it.
Photo courtesy of the Hennepin Theatre Trust.
This production features a starry cast of Disney veterans. Alison Woods is not only Ariel; she also provided the animation reference for the Rapunzel character in Tangled. Woods is Disney through and through, with the wide eyed wonder and freshly expressive voice that clearly denotes Ariel's innocence and charm.

Jamie Torcellini (who I did not have the pleasure of seeing as Scuttle) served various roles in Tarzan, Pocahontas and Aladdin. Ennis O'Bannion was a decent sub in for Scuttle, but it was clear he didn't have the effortless delivery of a regular.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The star power doesn't stop there. Melvin Abston, who plays a plucky Sebastian, has a strong resume of Broadway and television roles; hunky Eric Kunze (playing Prince Eric) could literally have stepped straight out of the cartoon, and Jennifer Allen (a visceral Ursula) have equally strong Broadway resumes; and on and on it goes. If you're looking for star power, this is definitely the show to find it.

Standout characters go to the "bit parts": Adam Garst is delightful as Flounder, bringing a pouty, punky Green Day vibe to the beloved fish. Jeff Skowron is riotously funny as Chef Louis in "Les Poissons," one of my favorite pieces of the show and a performance to watch for.

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust
The set is definitely a highlight of the show, utilizing gorgeous scrims, effervescent bubble pieces and a heavy amount of "flying" to lend the actors an underwater effect. The illusion is relatively seamless and set changes are lighting quick, so keep a close eye if you like to track transitions.

I will say for those who saw the Chanhassen rendition a couple of years ago: that innovative production was really on par with this. This Little Mermaid isn't a must see, but it's still a fine version of the original, and will be a lot of fun for kids and grownups alike. The Little Mermaid runs through October 18; for more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.