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BWW Reviews: Take a Swim With Ariel in THE LITTLE MERMAID

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Ensemble in "The Daughters of Triton".
Photo Provided By: Palace Theatre

One little swish of her tail and they were smitten. The girls who grew up admiring Ariel and humming her tunes can now have the same giddy feeling they used to get when that well-worn VHS slid into the machine. With the incomparable success of The Lion King, Disney set out to create its fair share of Broadway blockbusters. The Little Mermaid had a short lived run on the Great White Way, but that hasn't stopped other companies from having their go at a show with a lot to give.

In their first summer, Palace Theatre in the Wisconsin Dells has undertaken this underwater adventure. Donning outrageously vibrant costumes lent to them by Music Theatre Wichita, Ariel and her friends are brought to life in all of the glory of their original animated fame.

At the helm as Ariel is Palace newcomer Alison Bagli, a recent graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, whose vocal prowess rivals that of the original red haired oceanic maiden Jodi Benson. Her resonating smile is endearing from the moment the lights are brought up. Whether she is struggling as her mute, human self or she's swimming along with her pal Flounder, Bagli brings a brightness to the role that one should expect of a Disney princess.

Near the other end of the spectrum is Gillian Hassert as Ariel's devious Aunt Ursula. Lacking the frightening fortitude of her cinematic counterpart, but bringing all of the sass, Hassert's Ursula is the villain you hate to love and love to hate. Working in collaboration with her elaborate costume, each movement flows across the stage. The sea witch's swaying tentacles constantly remind audiences that the creatures are deep within the ocean's depths.

Beside the show's dastardly villain are brothers Zach and Jared Green as Jetsam and Flotsam - Ursula's loyal hench-eels. The two work in an unconscionable synchronization. Each has a single, glowing eye that seems to follow the audience's gaze no matter where they may be on stage. Lindsey Bracco's choreography for the two brothers is crucial to their success in their role. As slithery companions, the two are forced to assimilate to the limits the playing space sets. After all, they can't actually perform in water. Bracco's movement direction makes sure that the suspension of disbelief, that these beings are submerged in the salty brine, remains intact.

Without some needed comic relief, these overwhelmingly dark villainous characters can overtake the mood of the show. With Sean Green as Sebastian and Jason Elliott Brown as Scuttle, that relief jumps at audiences with no holds barred. Green's over the top personality makes Sebastian a stand out star in this production. Although he is goofy - a family favorite for sure - his moments of genuine connection with Ariel are that much more powerful. While Brown's Scuttle, the sea gull who believes himself to be the expert on humans, brings an extra level of fun to the show. Each represents a side to Ariel's life that she must come to terms with, while each holds a sentimental significance in her life as well.

Palace's The Little Mermaid is a wonderful excursion. With the majesty audiences have come to expect from Disney's staged musicals, it's sure to make a splash this summer in the Waterpark Capital of the World. So take a leap and dive "Under the Sea" with some of the Mouse's most colorful friends.


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From This Author Amanda Finn

Amanda lives in Madison, WI and joined BWW in the spring of 2014. She has relished every moment spent in a theatre since then. She (read more...)