What would it be like to live under the sea? Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID gives us a fantasy glimpse into the world of King Triton and his mermaid daughters along with their friends in this color-drenched, bubbly musical now showing at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha from November 7-12.

Based on the long standing and much beloved Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale from 1837 and the contemporary 1989 Walt Disney animated film, the story follows a spirited mermaid who longs to be part of the world above. With book by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, the Disney musical opened on Broadway in 2008 and ran for just under two years. It was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

It is interesting to note that the director brought on board in New York was Francesca Zambello, who had had some experience with fantasy elements of opera. She incorporated translucent materials and light to give the perception of water. In this national tour, translucent materials and bubble shapes are effective in devising a magical watery world. A tall column of iridescent bubbles slides across the stage while transparent forms in shades of blues, greens and lavender set off with diffused lighting suggest the cool of the sea.

Whereas Zambello made the decision not to use flying in the Broadway production, there is plenty of aerial activity in this one. King Triton, Arial and her pals all soar through the air in an illusion of swimming and in Price Eric's case-near drowning.

The cast, headed by Diana Huey as Ariel and Eric Kunze as Prince Eric, is impressive. Huey's voice is crystal clear and Kunze has a rich voice that is a royal treat. Melvin Abston as Sebastian is a hoot as he crabs along the stage sideways. Jamie Torcellini as confused Scuttle and Marco Ramos as the besotted Flounder serve up additional comic pleasures. Dane Stokinger is especially wonderful as Chef Louis, and Meredith Inglesby steals the show as Ursula, King Triton's evil octopus of a sister who tricks her niece into trading her voice for human legs.

Everything about Ursula is wonderful. Inglesby's voice is incredible...strong, sure, and captivating. Her comedic timing is impeccable. Her costume, designed by Amy Clark and Mark Ross, is an ingenious work of creativity. Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula's electric eel slippery sidekicks on wheeled footwear, manipulate her appendages so she fills the stage with movement. This movement is entrancing rather than distracting as is the continually undulating choreography elsewhere.

There is more to LITTLE MERMAID than froth and bubbles. There is wisdom, like loving someone how they are instead of how we want them, or not blaming all humans for a few wicked ones. More than 100 years later, Hans Christian Andersen's tale has not lost its relevance. Adults will enjoy the show as much as their children.

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From This Author Christine Swerczek

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