BWW Review: Spectacular Sets and Special Effects Make THE LITTLE MERMAID Shine
You don't have to be a world-record-holding swimmer or an oceanic scuba diver to journey under the sea -- you can explore a world beneath the waves without ever leaving your seat in the Ohio Theatre. Glimmering coral reefs and a colorful cast of underwater creatures are brought to life in breathtaking detail in "Disney's The Little Mermaid," which opened in Columbus Tuesday night.
Facing a stage bathed in aquamarine-tinted light and draped with translucent fabric simulating the frothiness of sea foam, the audience takes the plunge into the watery realm of King Triton (Steve Blanchard) and his court of sea-dwellers. A powerful ruler responsible for upholding order in his kingdom, Triton is also tasked with raising seven daughters on his own after his wife's disappearance and death, for which the king holds humans responsible.
Triton's distrust of humankind is not shared by his youngest daughter, Ariel (Diana Huey), whose curious nature inspires her to secretly visit the surface in order to add to her collection of found objects tossed into the sea by passing ships. After she saves a handsome prince from drowning when his boat is damaged in a storm, Ariel resolves to find a way to experience life on land. Yet, her quest to find acceptance and true love is hampered by the evil sea witch Ursula (Jennifer Allen), whose revenge-fueled scheme threatens all that Ariel holds dear.
Fans of the Disney movie will delight in the inclusion of staple songs such as "Part of Your World," "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and "Kiss the Girl." The brassy and bombastic "Under the Sea" is a fanciful feast for the eyes, featuring dancers wearing beautifully designed feather headdresses that channel the vibrant vivacity of Rio's Carnival.
New songs included in the musical version are welcome additions, as they allow for enhanced plot development and a deeper understanding of many of the movie's characters. Ursula's backstory, a history of jealousy-fueled rage that explains her long-time feud with Triton, is shared in "Daddy's Little Angel," which features lyrics dripping with sass and sarcasm.
In "She's in Love," a bouncy tune done up in the style of '60s girl-group pop, Flounder (Connor Russell), a tropical fish who harbors a not-so-secret crush on Ariel in this adaptation, is shocked when he learns that the mermaid of his dreams has her heart set on someone else. And, in the second act, Ariel's avian adviser on all things human, Scuttle (Jamie Torcellini), is given a tap-dance number that is packed with "Positoovity."
As in the movie, Ariel's love interest, Prince Eric (Matthew Kacergis), still occupies a fairly one-dimensional role. However, the audience gets to know the future king better through tender and heartwarming moments shared with Ariel in songs like "One Step Closer" and the emotionally moving "If Only," a quartet featuring Ariel, Eric, Triton and Sebastian (Melvin Abston).
The exquisite artistry displayed on stage showcases the work of a talented team of designers. Amy Clark and Mark Koss experiment with texture and form by incorporating swathes of green silk into their innovative interpretation of mermaid fins. The costumes' billowing fabric, which fluidly flows through the air when the actors flutter their arms, resembles the silk water sleeves used to emphasize the actions of Beijing opera performers.
Kenneth Foy's maritime color palette, which ranges from an inky black for Ursula's undersea cavern to a pastel peach for a sunset over the ocean, provides the perfect backdrop as the actors gracefully glide across the stage in flying sequences choreographed by Paul Rubin. Classic moments from the movie, such as Prince Eric's shipwreck and Ariel's transformation into a human, are excellently executed and precisely planned to ensure that the fast-paced plot keeps pushing forward.
Whether you love life on land or fantasize swimming in the fathoms below, "The Little Mermaid" is a show that will make humans and merfolk alike marvel at the magic of live theater.
"The Little Mermaid" is set to be performed in Columbus from Jan. 31 through Feb. 5 at the Ohio Theatre.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, via phone at (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000 and at the CAPA ticket center, located at 39 E. State St. Group tickets for 20 or more people can be arranged by calling (614) 719-6900.
The Ohio Theatre is located at 39 E. State St.