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BWW Review: STAGES PANTO LITTLE MERMAID is a Glorious Romp

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Running through December 31st!

BWW Review: STAGES PANTO LITTLE MERMAID is a  Glorious Romp
Stephanie Jones, Catherine Pope, and Faith Hillis
in Stages' Production of PANTO LITTLE MERMAID
Photo by Melissa Taylor

The annual tradition of STAGES THEATRE's Christmas PANTO comes roaring back with a jolly great time in Shawanna Renee Rivon's and Elizabeth A.M. Keel's PANTO LITTLE MERMAID. Set in the beach town of Galveston, TX, the story is a great time for all as audience members are integral parts of the production.


The story follows a young mermaid by the name of Hairelle (Macy Herrera) as she turns 16, or 21 human years. As Hairelle preps to make her maiden voyage to the surface, her companions Hippo (Joe Serpa Daniels), John (Jeremy Gee) and her family Queen Sparklescale (Faith Hills), Finn (Stephanie Daniels Jones), Shelly (Catherine Pope) give her many warnings that the beaches of Texas are filled with pollution. Hairelle is aware of this pollution as she already makes frequent trips to the surface with her seagull friend, Buttons (Ryan Schabach). Part of the humor is how intelligent Hairelle is in comparison to her Disney counterpart. On the surface, humans Dr. Wade (Holland Varva) and Hairic (Jordi Viscari) are also aware of the pollution and amid an impending hurricane are preserving to find a way to rid trash off of Texas' beaches. Along with Dr. Wade and Hairic, the eyes and ears of Galveston Hannah Christian Anderson (Genevieve Allenbury) reports not only the weather but also her hilarious dating life.

BWW Review: STAGES PANTO LITTLE MERMAID is a  Glorious Romp
Jordi Viscarri and Holland Vavra in Stages' Production of PANTO LITTLE MERMAID.
Photo by Melissa Taylor

No spoilers, but audience participation is extremely encouraged in this production. This aspect is delightful with children around as their giggles and laughter only add to the experience of the show. A huge kudos goes to both Shawanna Renee Rivon and Elizabeth A.M. Keel have written a brilliant take on the classic fairy tale. Even more so that they take story elements from the classic Disney film and not only use them in parody but also create a wonderful 21st century interpretation of the tale. While the entire cast are filled with outstanding performances, one huge highlight is Holland Varva who has the monumentous task of playing both plot device and villain. Their voice is absolutely astounding and their performance of Pursula is one for the ages. One favorite moment were the nods to other musicals, as a sea witch it was interesting to her the character riff like Wicked's Elphaba. Other standout performances come from Stephanie Daniels Jones, Macy Herrera, and Jordi Viscari. Jones' beautiful voice is so strong and effervescent it becomes mesmerizing. Viscari's portrayal of Hairic is equal parts comedic and enlightening as the character enlightens audiences about the dangers of water pollution. Finally, Herrera's depiction of the title character is one for the ages as both her singing voice and acting are superb.

BWW Review: STAGES PANTO LITTLE MERMAID is a  Glorious Romp
Macy Herrera and Holland Vavra in Stages' Production of PANTO LITTLE MERMAID
Photo by Melissa Taylor

There are other amazing performances from the other cast members as well. Especially from Catherine Pope who plays Volta, no spoilers but don't forget to crane your neck for Pope's amazing aerobatics. The design elements of the production are also fantastic. You would think mermaid dresses and costumes would be cumbersome but costume designer, Kristina Hanssen has done a masterful job of allowing their actors to move freely. Lighting design by Javier Moreno and scenic design Liz Freese is astounding as one really feels like they are under the sea when walking into the Sterling Stage. Huge kudos goes to Director Tevyn Washington and Choreographer Eboni Darcy for their amazing skills of wrangling this talented group of actors and artists. Finally, even bigger acclaim goes to stage managers, Ashley Ginn and Kali Grau who have to maintain the difficult but fun job of running this show.

Performance times are Wednesdays - Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays and Sunday's at 2pm, and Saturday evenings at 7pm. Individual tickets start at $25 with savings for groups of 6 or more. To purchase, call the STAGES Box Office at 713-527-0123 or stageshouston.com. All patrons must show a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination prior to entry. STAGES requires all patrons wear a mask while in the building.

BWW Review: STAGES PANTO LITTLE MERMAID is a  Glorious Romp
The Company of Stage's Production of PANTO LITTLE MERMAID
Photo by Melissa Taylor

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