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BWW Review: Cabrillo's Enchanting LITTLE MERMAID Goes Swimmingly Under the Sea


The Little Mermaid/book by Doug Wright/music by Alan Menken/lyrics by Howard Ashman & Glenn Slater/choreographed by Heather Castillo/musical director: Colin Freeman/directed by Larry Raben/Cabrillo Music Theatre, Thousand Oaks/through July 24 only

Watching Cabrillo Music Theatre's The Little Mermaid on the Fred Kavli stage is an enjoyable treat, almost like viewing the Disney film ... it's so alive and scintillating. All the color and splendor of the ocean is onstage, and that has a lot to say about this production's creative team. All the technical aspects of the show are working smoothly, in sync. Cabrillo may be assuredly proud of their production. The sad thing is it only plays a week more, until Sunday July 24.

Most know Ariel's (Alison Bagli) story, that she wants to become a human more than anything else. She swims to the surface of the sea with her friends Sebastian (Lawrence Cummings) and Scuttle (Pablo Rossil), but her father King Triton (David Engel) is not pleased. In fact, when he finds the lair she has been hiding from him, in which she keeps things she has been collecting from her human encounters, he destroys them, prompting Ariel to escape. Ursula ( Debbie Prutsman), Triton's evil sister, who lost her control over the dominion of the sea to her brother, will stop at nothing to regain it. She makes a pact with Ariel. In exchange for her voice, Ariel may take human form and attempt to seduce earthly Prince Eric (Conor Guzman), with whom she has fallen in love. If within three days, he kisses her, she may remain human. If not, she must obey Ursula and remain her slave.

Of course, this is a fairy tale and was filmed by Disney, so the ending is a happy one.Ursula is stripped of her powers, Triton keeps control and eventually surrenders and grants Ariel her freedom to become human, marry Eric...thereby uniting for all time the two royal kingdoms of sea and land.

Under Larry Raben's nicely orchestrated pace and fluid staging, the show is sheer delight...and the cast, sublime. Bagli is adorable and agile as Ariel. She conveys a palpable sweetness and a fierce determination to live her dreams. Engel is just right as Triton, stern and unflinching. Guzman makes a suave prince and is especially caring and likable in teaching Ariel to dance as an expression of her true feelings.("One Step Closer") I could not help but think of Rafiki and Zazu from The Lion King as I watched Sebastian and Scuttle respectively. Cummings is wonderfully engaging as the Jamaican-sounding advisor, and Rossil adds just the right amount of comedic flair to make his Scuttle entertaining. Prutsman steals the show, to be sure, as Ursula. This actress is always a joy in every role she plays. Here, she grabs hold of not only Ursula's nastiness, but her childish playfulness and really sinks her teeth into the dark humor of the role, relishing every nuance, every note. Her two assistants Flotsam (Eric Stanton Betts) and Jetsam (Alex Levy) on roller blades with costumes lit in twinkling green are deliciously evil and fun as well. David Gilchrist makes an appropriately straight-forward and emotionless Grimsby - grim's the word - and Michael C. Kennedy does his best with Flounder, the fish who is in love with Ariel.

Creatively, scenic design by Kenneth Foy, costumes by Amy Clark and Mark Koss, lighting by Christina L. Munich and sound by Jonathan Burke are all vibrant and colorful and put us right "Under the Sea". Thanks to Heather Castillo for some lovely. snappy choreography and to Colin Freeman for his great orchestrations. Flying segments are expertly carried off. It really seems that Ariel has a fin and no feet. All technical elements are beautifully conveyed.

The Little Mermaid was Disney's first big animated musical hit on screen in the 80s, which translated so very well to the Broadway stage. It's a fun, charming story that you do not want to miss. And bring the kids ... of all ages! You have one more week to be Part of This World, so rush - fly or swim, of possible - to get tickets!

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From This Author Don Grigware