BWW Review: DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Kentucky Center For The Arts
Photo Courtesy of Mark & Tracy Photography
Disney's The Little Mermaid
Directed by Glenn Casale
Review by Taylor Clemons
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Taylor Clemons. All rights reserved.
Walking into the show, I was fairly excited. With the show's Disney heritage, the title's box office appeal, and The 5th Avenue Theatre producing I expected to be whisked away into a magical world where mermaids exist, crabs talk, and a sea witch is bent on obtaining total power. It pains me to report, that Disney's The Little Mermaid, gave me much less than I initially bargained for.
The show itself has always been somewhat of a blemish on Disney Theatricals otherwise flawless record of producing hit shows (save for Tarzan... which we shouldn't even begin to get into). Mermaid's original Broadway run was flawed to say the least. Critics panned the show, not because of talent, but merely the written material, and the gaudy production design. The original production closed at a loss, and never toured the country. While this production is considerably better than its Broadway counterpart, the show comes across as plain and dull. I expected if the show was finally touring, that the creatives and production had finally figured out how to make the musical click.
The new music added to the score by Alan Menken (sorry Alan, I'm still a fan I promise!), is mostly lackluster and forgettable. Ursula's original Broadway Act 1 number, "I Want the Good Times Back" (which was a fun and belty change of pace), has been replaced by yet another new song "Daddy's Little Angel" which falls flat is is devoid of all of the sass and spunk that makes Ursala so great. One new addition to the score that I enjoyed is very short lived and comes about halfway through Act 1, where Ariel's sisters are gossiping about her odd behavior ("She's In Love"). Another I really enjoyed was a cute tap number the kick off the second act performed by Scuttle and his fellow birds ("Positoovity"). The book scenes themselves are painfully slow. One problem this show has, is that until Ariel makes her deal with Ursula, the stakes feel very low. The majority of Act 1 feels like we're all just desperately waiting for something, anything to happen.
The performances in the show were fine. Nobody was bad, but again, it felt very dull and forced. Diana Huey as Ariel does a commendable job. She has a very pleasant voice, and easily brings the character's naivete and enthusiasm to life. The standout for me would have to be Jennifer Allen as Ursula. Out of everyone in the cast, I felt like Allen was making the boldest choices, which in turn gave her scenes and songs so much more life. Melvin Abston is good as Sebastian the crab, but certain times felt like he wasn't taking the character's silly and neurotic tendencies as far as they could've gone.
As for production design, the set was pretty on par for a regional company's national tour. Nothing too exciting here. The set essentially serviced the show. The costumes were fun and vibrant, and I very much like the artistic choice of how certain characters swim and fly in this production as opposed to it's Broadway counterpart.
Really and truly, my opinion doesn't much matter here. The show is selling extremely well at this point, and the fact is that people are gonna see The Little Mermaid if they want to see it. For children this show is a slam dunk. They'll be engrossed and enraptured by their favorite characters live onstage, but as an adult and seasoned theater-goer, you might see the show as I did; mostly dull and sub par, with a only a glimmer of magic here and there, behind most of the commercialism that the show sets center stage.
Disney's The Little Mermaid
February 14 - 19, 2017
Whitney Hall in The Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202