ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Little Mermaid
Most notable is scuttling of the "heelies" (shoes that let you roll across flat surfaces, except for eels) for the inhabitants under-the-sea. It has been replaced with flying by wires by Ariel, Prince Eric, King Triton and some of the sea-creatures. It's a better idea and the effect works just fine, but as my grandson critiqued, "I only give the show three and a half stars because you can see the wires."
If The Little Mermaid is a bit sillier and less adult friendly than most of the Disney musicals, there were many little girls jumping out of their seats with joy during the show, finale and curtain calls. Adults are obliged to be tolerant with the text and story, but will surely be awestruck by the sheer extravagance of this production.
The brilliantly iridescent costumes are eye-popping and a constant pleasure to behold. Amy Clark & Mark Koss are credited with Costume Co-ordination & Design, but the shows original costume designer Tatiana Noginova is also given credit. So who knows? Nevertheless, the Mersisters no longer have cumbersome fish tails and exposed legs but rather gorgeous, graceful garments with flowing fabric for tails. The more humorously inspired suits for Sebastian the Crab, Scuttle and Gulls, the electrified eels, and the grandiose outfit and headdress for the multi-tentacle Ursula are knock-outs.
Glenn Casale's brisk direction is clearly focused to get through the basic story that the Disney collaborators based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Kenneth Foy's scenic design has the whimsy of a children's picture book, but also less surreal in concept than was the Broadway production. He uses bubbles as a theme and as a frame for the show. The lighting by Charlie Morrison is exceptional and keeps the light board busy.
There are some minor changes to the bouncy and charming original score by Alan Menken (music) and the late Howard Ashman (lyrics) which was augmented for the Broadway production with more songs by Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Comparing the song list from the original program, the changes I can see are: "Human Stuff" sung by the scuttle fish and gulls in the original has been scuttled, and "Daddy's Little Angel," as now sung by Ursula, Flotsam and Jetsam, has replaced "I Want the Good Times Back." The most captivating songs remain the calypso frolic "Under the Sea," and the dreamy "Kiss the Girl."
These nicely support the bubbly romantic pursuit of Ariel (a spunky and pretty Jessica Grové), a rebellious mermaid in her quest to marry a prince and discover the world beyond the watery one governed by her autocratic father King Triton (an imposingly virile Edward Watts, who also played the title role in the recent Encores' Superman). Nick Adams exerts an impetuous panache as Prince Eric who immediately falls in love upon hearing Ariel's voice while at sea. All sing well and do better in that regard than with the unexceptional text by Doug Wright.
Some performers such as Matt Allen as a glib, feathered seagull, Alan Ming, Jr., as a Caribbean Crab, Liz McCarney, as the fearsome sea-witch Ursula, Scott Leiendecker and Sean Patrick Doyle, as a devious pair of electric eels, Timothy Shew, as the palace chef, and Christian Probst, as a love-struck Flounder rise above the text with amusing performances. More amusing is watching the performers under water keep on singing and speaking all the while keeping their bodies undulating. I don't think that is choreographer John MacInnis's finest moments under the sea, but there is a terrific tap dance on the beach for Scuttle and Gulls.