The closest I’ll probably ever come to going scuba diving is seeing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which is truly an adventure ‘under the sea.’
To the benefit of the others in the audience I didn’t wear my Speedo, but in some ways it would have been appropriate, because I did feel as if I was submerged into the ocean. Also, much like beach vacations, The Little Mermaid was a trip that I never wanted to end.
The tale of The Little Mermaid is well known, though not as old as time, but remains fresh and new with such a vibrant production. I was hooked right away by the opening scene of Ariel (Diana Huey) swimming straight through the air. It’s the best swimming that I’ve seen since Michael Phelps in the Olympics. The perfect form in which Ariel (Huey) glides through the water is matched by the way that she sings. Her voice in ‘The World Above’ is the equivalent of 28 Gold medals, if not more, and is certainly enough to earn the attention of a suitor. While I have always been fond of Daryl Hannah from ‘Splash,’ I now believe that Huey has now surpassed her as my favorite mermaid.
Despite all the pleasures of life ‘under the sea,’ (Where else can you live in a pineapple?) Ariel still yearns to live on dry land as a human. She is fascinated by us two-legged creatures, much to her father’s chagrin, especially with Prince Eric (Eric Kunze). He plays being smitten very well, and has all the characteristics of a heroic Prince.
As is the case with all teen romances, Ariel and Prince Eric had a number of obstacles in the way of their happiness, besides the fact that she’s half fish. Their biggest problem is Ariel’s father, King Triton (Steve Blanchard), who forbids her to have anything to do with humans. Triton blames humans for the death of his wife, which left him with seven daughters to raise alone. Ariel must go against her father’s ruling in order to chase her dream.
It’s pretty customary with Disney that the supporting characters are the most delightful, and The Little Mermaid is no exception. One such classic character is Sebastian (Melvin Abston), who claws his way to being a fan favorite. It doesn’t require a ‘snap’ decision to determine that Abston is a prized catch. His movements, vocal reflections, and especially singing voice are superb. I may never be able to eat any crab again. I’m just thankful that Sebastian isn’t a catfish. A highlight of the show is ‘Under the Sea,’ which is both an audible and visual spectacular, including some really big jellyfish.
The cast of strong supporting characters also includes Scuttle (Jamie Torcellini), a high flying bird with a wit sharper than his beak. You might find your own toe tapping to Scuttle’s performance of ‘Positoovity.’ Though Flounder is his name, Connor Russell flourished in his portrayal of the fish with unrequited feelings for Ariel. Fulfilling the need of a dastardly villain is Jennifer Allen as Ursula, who is lovably evil in robbing Ariel of her angelic voice. She deserves a hand, or a half dozen of them, for her performance. A special mention must also go to Chef Louis (Dane Stokinger), whose single scene is a real standout. Stokinger serves a full smorgasbord of laughs, in a scene perfectly seasoned with physical comedy as Sebastian tries his best to ruin the meal.
From the costumes to the lighting, special effects and sound, everything about the show is without fault. It’s a show for all ages to enjoy, as I’d never seen so many little girls in Princess dresses at the Schuster Center. If you are a fan of the animated movie, you won’t be disappointed in the live production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Schuster Center through August 13.