BWW Review: The MUNY's Outstanding and Visually Stunning THE LITTLE MERMAID
It's interesting to imagine just what fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen would think of the musical version of THE LITTLE MERMAID (book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater) that's now gracing the stage of The MUNY. Though he might quibble with the liberties the book takes with his story, I think he would be absolutely blown away by the performances and stagecraft that are on display. It's a terrific and captivating production that doesn't skimp on the eye candy. Though the Disney film has been around since 1989, it's still a hugely popular movie for members of the younger set, and the equally successful musical has been beguiling audiences for almost 10 years as well. This timeless fantasy, and its many charms, are a perfect match for the MUNY's vast expanses, which are filled with imaginative imagery that families will find exquisitely appealing.
Though the enchanting mermaid Ariel should be filled with happiness in her undersea world, she yearns to live on dry land. If her father, the King, knew of her aspirations he would be enraged, but Ariel is remarkably determined. In fact, when she encounters a handsome prince she strikes a bargain with the sea witch, Ursula, which robs her of her lovely voice. She has but three days to win over his love, and enlists the aid of a number of critters in order to do so. But, if she fails in her efforts she will lose her soul to the wicked Ursula.
Emma Degerstedt is delightful as Ariel, effectively conjuring up the image of a young mermaid who wants more out of life, and is positively driven to do so. Her voice is splendid as well, as would befit a character who uses it as a bargaining chip so she can gain her true love. Jason Gotay does fine work as the object of her affections, Prince Eric, and you genuinely root for them to connect. Emily Skinner is perfectly menacing as Ursula, creepily costumed and brimming with malevolent intentions, Skinner makes a memorable impression. Jerry Dixon is commanding and surly as King Triton, bringing plenty of bluster to the role. James T. Lane is enthusiastic as Sebastian, the red Jamaican crab who is also a composer. The undeniably catchy "Under the Sea" gets a great workout under his guidance. Jeffrey Schecter is funny and friendly as Scuttle the seagull, and Spencer Jones is awfully cute as Flounder. Kevin Zak and Will Porter are quite good as Ursula's moray eel minions; Flotsam and Jetsam, respectively. Frank Vlastnik is also sharp as Chef Louis/Pilot, specializing in seafood dishes as the Chef, which naturally rubs Sebastian the wrong way. Richard B. Watson rounds out the cast as Eric's manservant/confidante, Grimsby. Of course, the large ensemble also adds to the merriment, and gives the show an even wider scope.
Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge concocts another gem for the MUNY, making full use of a wide range of theatrical techniques to bring the various locales depicted, particularly the undersea kingdom, to vivid life. Josh Walden's clever use of movement and energetic choreography adds immeasurably to the proceedings, and Charlie Alterman's musical direction presents us with a lush and tuneful take on the score. Michael Schweikardt's scenic design is extremely creative, and greatly augmented by the atmospheric lighting of Nathan W. Scheuer. Robin McGee's costumes and John Metzner's wigs are astounding creations that deftly define each character, whether human or otherwise. Matthew Young (video designs), Puppet Kitchen Productions (puppet creations), and John Shivers and David Partridge (sound designers) add additional elements that act to complete the overall vision.
The MUNY's production of THE LITTLE MERMAID features excellent performances, stunning visuals, and a gorgeous rendering of the score by the orchestra. Pack up the family and see this spectacular presentation running through June 29, 2017.