Disney and theater fans alike plunged under the sea this past weekend as The Little Mermaid made huge waves over Los Angeles with both the live concert to film event at the Hollywood Bowl and the much anticipated opening of the musical extravaganza presented by McCoy Rigby Entertainment. The show serves as the final production of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts immensely successful 2015-2016 season.
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, Disney’s The Little Mermaid was not particularly well received on Broadway lasting only 735 performances including previews. In 2012, director, Glenn Casale re-imagined the production and most notably introduced the use of flying harnesses for the underwater sequences choreographed by Paul Ruben. This allowed the performers to better mimic the fluid movements of the aquatic characters versus the Heelys, the actors wore in the original stage production. Also gone is Ariel’s motorized tail, which was cumbersome and noisy.
Ariel (Alison Woods) is the young mermaid who dreams of a life above water and gives up her beautiful voice to find love. Accompanying Ariel on her adventures to the ocean’s surface is loyal guppy, Flounder (Adam Garst) and greeting them above water is a “know-it-all” seagull named Scuttle (Jamie Torcellini). During one of her visits, Ariel spots Prince Eric (Eric Kunze) on his ocean voyage. The sighting abets her insatiable longing even more to be a part of his world.
Woods is charming, quirky and her infectious smile and sprightly disposition undoubtedly reels in audience members. At times she did come across overly animated but altogether very successful as the lead character.
Meanwhile, back in the dark, briny depths of the leviathan below, we encounter Ursula (Tracy Lore) and her conniving sidekicks, Flotsam (Scott T. Leiendecker) and Jetsam (Jeffrey Christopher Todd). Ursula is plotting to gain control of the underwater world by any means possible. I was most enthusiastic to watch the menacing trio as they are some of my favorite Disney villains. And they certainly did not disappoint!
Lore was utter perfection playing the brass sea witch. I’m not quite sure what was bigger; her over the top demeanor or her scintillating performance in the Act One finale, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Leiendecker and Todd were equally electrifying, cunning and downright taunting in their number “Sweet Child.”
When Ariel’s father, King Triton (Fred Inkley) notices his daughters pre-occupied behavior, he appoints his right hand crustacean, Sebastian (Melvin Abston) as her guardian. Abston was an absolute delight in the role of the straitlaced crab. He embodied the right balance of comic relief, rich vocals and exuberant dance moves in the colorful spectacle, “Under the Sea” and later slowed it down for the calypso masterpiece “Kiss the Girl.”
The extraordinary cast also included Time Winters as Prince Eric’s advisor, Grimsby and Jeff Skowron as the bumbling Chef Louis.
Some of the original music by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater were cut from this production including “Human Stuff” and others like “I Want The Good Times Back” was fittingly replaced with “Daddy’s Little Girl,” a song that encompasses the backstory of the tumultuous relationship between Ursula and King Triton.
Another change was making the character of Flounder older and giving him a crush on Ariel. The altered storyline was most evident in the musical number, “She’s In Love,” when the entire second verse becomes his self-realization that Ariel is in love with someone else.
Mark Moss and Amy Clark are the brilliant designers behind the costumes in the production. The duo was most triumphant with Ursula’s guise and Flotsam and Jetsam’s clever illuminations on their slippery getups. Ariel’s costume transformation from mermaid to human was also breathtaking and heightened dramatically by lighting designer, Charlie Morrison.
The set design by Kenneth Foy was reminiscent of an old timey children’s pop-up book but certain elements regrettably missed the mark like the absence of the iconic rock Ariel crouches upon during the “Part of Your World (Reprise).”
Under the musical direction of Colin R. Freeman and sound design by Julie Ferrin, the full, lush orchestration was outstanding and the best I’ve heard at the La Mirada Theatre in a very long time. Naturally, the amazing vocals provided by the entire company complimented the music and was spellbinding in songs like “If Only (Quartet)” and “The Finale.”
Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a great way to say bon voyage to a truly magical season at The La Mirada Theatre for the performing arts. Be sure to catch the show before it sets sail on June 26th. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or ORDER ONLINE