Review of Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Book by Doug Wright
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Directed by Gene Abravaya
Music Direction by Tina Lloyd Meals
Choreography by Michella Snider
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: April 29 – May 22, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(April 29, 2016)
The Little Mermaid is a splashy spectacle of lighthearted melodies and true love, based on the Disney film. While this production is colorful and lively, keeping the smallest audience members enraptured, its origins are far darker. Hans Christian Anderson wrote the story out of heartbreak, when the man he loved was married, leaving Anderson alone and grief stricken. The little mermaid is given the choice of death or slaying the prince to receive her tail back. In an act of self sacrifice and love, she tosses the dagger into the sea, throwing herself in after it to perish, while the prince happily sleeps beside his beautiful human wife. There is no trace of the anguished original tale; Spreckels’ production is a fun and lively coming of age story that warms the heart.
From flirty mermaids in sparkling fins to extensive wirework, a production of this scale requires countless parts to move in harmony. The result is a vibrant display, such as the Under the Sea extravaganza musical number. Lighting designer Eddy Hansen worked wonders, bringing characters to life and transitioning between locations with ease. Costume designer Pamela Enz outdid herself with varied but unified creations. Abstract kelp patterns and jellyfish brought the sea to life onstage. Their choreography, by Michella Snider, mimicked gentle rippling water without becoming distracting as a background. Putting the voice talents of the cast to good use was musical director Tina Lloyd Meals, with the memorable She’s in Love, Positoovity, and Kiss the Girl.
Dominating the stage in true kingly fashion was Steven Kent Barker as Triton. A lost father grieving for his wife, Triton covers up his uncertainty with booming pronouncements, realizing in the end that family is what truly matters. Her sweet voice capturing a love-sick, petulant teenager, Julianne Thompson Bretan was a delightful Ariel. Her Prince Eric (Jacob Bronson) portrayed an equally naïve romantic, creating the perfect fairy tale couple.
It was Robert Finney as Sebastian whose exuberant personality was as wide as the ocean in an impressive Spreckels debut. His comedic interludes with Chef Louis (Jeremy Berrick) had the audience in stitches. Equally impressive was Fernando Siu as Flounder, who took to the half roller-skates like a fish to water, gliding in perfect comfort about the stage. His adorable crush on Ariel was well-played, and gave me new appreciation of the role. Sean O’Brien’s Scuttle was brief but amusing as he flapped about, consumed with self-importance. Mary Gannon Graham as Ursula belted out Poor Unfortunate Souls with enthusiasm, relishing her evil role, in a stunning squid inspired skirt.
Spreckels’ The Little Mermaid is a marvelous opportunity to introduce children to live theater. It is an enchanting vision of the world, with a magical orchestra, dazzling underwater pageant, and picturesque finale. Sell your soul to the sea witch if you have to, but swim over to Spreckels’ before this show closes.