Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of Broadway’s current trend of movie-to-musical conversion. “Legally Blonde,” ”Shrek,” “Mean Girls,” “Groundhog’s Day,” “School of Rock,” “Newsies,” the list goes on. I prefer original stories, and am usually not thrilled to sit through a musical that originated as a movie I’ve seen a thousand times. For that reason, I’d be lying if I said that I was over-the-moon excited to go see “The Little Mermaid” at Lockport’s Palace Theatre last night. But boy was I misguided; I can’t recall a time that I’ve had more fun at the theatre.
. . .exciting, engaging, and a fun night at the theatre for the whole family.
I pray to Poseidon that your childhood wasn’t so sheltered that you need a plot synopsis of “The Little Mermaid,” but just in case you were raised under a rock (or a reef): Set under and above the high seas, this classic Disney adventure tells the story of Ariel (Emily Prucha), King Triton (Kyle Beiter)’s youngest daughter, and her wish to become human. After falling in love with the handsome Prince Eric (Ricky Needham) in the world above, Ariel bargains with the evil sea witch Ursula (Taylor Clarson) to trade her tail for legs. But the bargain is not what it seems, and Ariel needs the help of her friends Flounder the fish (Rheanna Gallego), Scuttle the seagull (Robby Syruws), and Sebastian the crab (Jake Hayes) to restore order under the sea.
What a talented cast! Jake Hayes and Robby Syruws were completely hysterical, and perfect for the roles of Sebastian and Scuttle. Taylor Clarson’s Ursula was terrifying and her laugh gave me goosebumps; if you’re familiar with the character, you know that’s intentional. Emily Prucha’s acting, dancing, and beautiful voice soared during “Part of Your World” and other big vocal numbers. Most particularly, this production’s ensemble singers and dancers wither superbly good, especially during “Les Poissons” and “Kiss the Girl.”
Director Christopher Parada and Choreographer Dyan Mulvey were quite creative in finding fun ways to depict fish, crabs, and birds on stage via human actors. Particularly clever was their choice to have Ariel, Sebastian, and many of the other actors wear shoes with wheels attached so they could gracefully “swim” on stage.
Without a doubt, the strongest and most stunning component of this rendition of “The Little Mermaid” was the production design. Of all the community theatre productions that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen many), I’m hard-pressed to think of one that had more impressive costumes, lighting, special effects, and set design. I quite literally felt my jaw drop during “Under the Sea”, the show’s flagship musical number that featured multi-colored lights, bubble machines, and cast members entering the audience dressed as illuminated jellyfish.
This production wasn’t without its imperfections, albeit small ones. The ending felt a bit rushed, particularly the moment when it’s revealed that Ursula was actually responsible for the death of Ariel’s mother (up until this point in the show, Ariel thought her mother was killed by humans). Though it’s not a critical plot point, it was easily missed if you weren’t familiar with the show; in general the dialogue sometimes felt a bit rushed. There were also several instances throughout the show when the orchestra—though they sounded great—fully drowned out what was happening on stage. That all being said, these are small nitpicks that shouldn’t keep you from going to see this otherwise fantastic production.
Curtain Up’s production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Lockport Palace Theatre is exciting, engaging, and a fun night at the theatre for the whole family.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” runs until March 18, 2018 and is presented at Lockport’s Palace Theatre. For more information, click here.