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Review: Sacramento Goes Under the Sea with THE LITTLE MERMAID

Since Sacramento last saw "The Little Mermaid," director Glenn Casale has fin(e)-tuned Disney's script and created a near-perfect, spectacle of a production. The unofficial mini-tour of the show comes to Sacramento courtesy of California Musical Theatre this week only and is already sold out.

A bubbly ocean, lovely proscenium and simple backdrops create King Triton's court, the beach near Prince Eric's castle, and Ursula's deep, dark lair. Charlie Morrison's black (and colorful) lights create a stunning atmosphere, while Paul Rubin's flight sequence choreography allows merpeople and seagulls to "swim" at every wonderful possible opportunity.

Amy Clark and Mark Koss provide exquisite fins for the undersea people, although the awkward leotard fish from the previous Music Circus production remain. An endearing lineup of delightful characters includes the bumbling Chef Louis (a delightfully over-the-top Jeff Skowron), jealous mersisters, a tap dancing seagull (the animated Jamie Torcellini), and a best friend named Flounder struggling with teenage angst (played by Adam Garst). An lovable crustacean Sebastian (the tired Melvin Abston) attempts to watch over princess Ariel as she attempts to win over the human Prince Eric without her stolen voice.

Eric quickly falls in love with Ariel's wonder and bright outlook toward the world, and his own self-discovery makes for some of the most striking moments ever put to stage. Eric Kunze is a passionate and motivated Eric with a princely voice, a lovely match to Alison Woods' enthusiastic and youthful Ariel.

In addition to Ariel's trademark "Part of Your World," songwriter Alan Menken provides fun, slapstick songs for side characters and gorgeous melodies to reveal Ariel's deepest thoughts. Even Ursula, the sea witch who manipulates Ariel so she can take over the throne, gets her own backstory in the hilarious "Daddy's Little Angel." Jennifer Allen's Ursula is not so much an overbearing diva as she is a crafty, self-praising, sometimes tipsy villain. Casale's clever staging has henchmen Flotsam and Jestam (Scott T. Leiendecker and Jeffrey Christopher Todd) moving Ursula's tentacles about as she relishes in her plans.

The entire staging possesses an equally clever knowledge of what works best for the space and story arc. "Little Mermaid" may not come straight from Broadway, but it impresses from fathoms below to the land above.


Broadway Sacramento
Through February 7

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