BWW Review: THE LITTLE MERMAID at Casa Manana
Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID debuted in movie theatres way back in 1989, but nearly twenty years of children singing "Kiss The Girl," "Part of your World," and "Pour Unfortunate Souls" led Disney to produce the celebrated story on a Broadway stage in 2009. And although the show lasted less than two years in New York, it is quickly becoming a staple among high schools, regional and youth theatres. Casa Manana's current production (using the edited "Junior" version of the script) is a shining example of what the show is written to inspire: fun and freedom!
In the Fort Worth dome, Casa Manana has created an educational opportunity by pairing local professionals with some of the theatre's strongest students, making a star-turn for local teenager Josie Dawn as Ariel. Despite her tiny frame, Dawn debuts a massive, mature sound that not only soars on each note, but has emotional depth, as well. She's joined onstage by local stage-and-screen star Cheryl Allison, who dons her best sea witch drag and steals the scenes as Ursula. DFW notables Kyle Igneczi and Christopher J. Deaton shine as Price Eric and King Triton, respectively, but it's Deaton's turn as Chef Louis in Act Two that comparatively shows off his impressive acting range. Among the skilled supporting ensemble, Caroline Ellis made quite a splash as Allana, one of Ariel's sisters, and Joseph Redd milks every laugh as the silly sidekick, Scuttle. . The remaining players are Taylor Ratliff as Jetsam, Brandon Shreve and David Midkiff alternating as Flotsam, Abby Chapman as Flounder, Bob Reed as Grimsby, Anna Chase Lanier, Sarah Youngblood, Grace Moore, Ally Ramsey, Sydney Dotson, Lauren Magee, Katie Blanton, Bailey Poe, Rashaun Sibley, Tristan Thomas, Will Thomson and David Postlewate. A brief moment is saved for Patrick Bilbo, Cooper Carter, Katherine Pfeffer, Tara Holt, Madeline Ayala, Elizabeth Hall, Ava Jones and Brooklyn Roberson, and it's just too cute for words.
This production runs only an hour-and-a-half, which seemed to be the perfect length for the young, enthusiastic crowd on opening night. The script highlights Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Glen Slater's best songs, using excerpts of Doug Wright's script to connect the dots between the musical moments. Director/choreographer Lee Wilkins has creatively conquered the challenging underwater effects using a series of fabric panels that hanging from ceiling to floor, and are perfectly choreographed to represent different wave patterns, wind and clouds. Although the actors never swim, skate or fly across the stage, Wilkins and the cast manage to create a magical Under the Sea adventure that is engaging and exciting from start to finish. .
THE LITTLE MERMAID continues through Sunday May 14th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.casamanana.org.