BWW Reviews: North Carolina Theatre's THE LITTLE MERMAID
Based on the 1989 Disney animated classic of the same name as well as the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid tells the story about a young mermaid who dreams of the world above the sea and gives up her beautiful voice to find her true love.
The stage adaptation first premiered on Broadway in January of 2008 to mixed reviews from critics (as well as audiences), and later closed in August of 2009 after a total of 685 performances. The production that just debuted at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium last Tuesday night is a revised version of the show that will soon be sent out for licensing to schools and local theatres around the world via Music Theatre International.
As someone who actually got to see the Broadway production over five years ago (as well as being in the minority of the people who liked it), I can certainly say that this version is almost definitely an improvement. In the revised book by Tony-Winning playwright Doug Wright, the story goes deeper into the father-daughter relationship between Ariel (played by a delightful Jessica Grove) and King Triton (played by a very caring Kevyn Morrow), it also includes a brand new number called "Daddy's Little Angel" for the sea witch Ursula (played by a very witchy Ellen Harvey), which is actually much more suitable for the character than the one from the Broadway production titled "I Want the Good Times Back".
Other performance highlights from this production include Ian Parmenter as the free spirited Prince Eric, North Carolina native Joseph Gaitens as Ariel's charming best friend, Flounder, Alan Mingo, Jr. giving a standout performance as Sebastian (a role which he also understudied and played on Broadway), Matt Allen giving such a comical cartoon performance as Ariel's seagull friend, Scuttle, as well as Brian Cali giving a very believable performance as the french Chef Louis.
You also very much admire the production values as you can see all the effort put into them as the design team was basically working with what they had, from such delicate lighting designs by Craig Stelzenmuller, to the expertly crafted scenery by J. Branson, even to the projections designed by Brad Peterson giving such exposition on the more bombastic scenes.
My only (minor) criticism with the show was that the climax near the end of Act II felt a bit rushed, which is understandable knowing the basic language and limited space of the stage.
Wonderfully directed by Jennifer Werner, with some glorious musical numbers staged by Brian J. Marcum ("Under the Sea" being a standout), a supportive ensemble cast including some very talented children from the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory, and a well assembled orchestra conducted by musical director Ed Goldschneider, I'll happily say that in my humble opinion, North Carolina Theatre's production of 'The Little Mermaid' is absolutely a delightful night out to the theatre!