BWW Review: Stockton Goes Under the Sea with LITTLE MERMAID

BWW Review: Stockton Goes Under the Sea with LITTLE MERMAID

Stockton Civic Theatre journeys fathoms below to the sights and sounds of the sea with Disney's "The Little Mermaid." Those sights and sounds had technical issues at Wednesday's preview performance, but given the excellent overall production value and the strong, positive audience reaction, the big fish tale will surely find its legs by its December 13 closing.

Director Scottie Woodard and crew have found original ways to stage the complicated elements of mermaid swims and marine creatures minus any flying contraptions. Background projections and human "waves" help with transformation and setting, and, despite some bleached mer-sisters and gold-leotard fish, a colorful and detailed costume design is quite the star(fish). Light-up electric eels, ugly ducklings, turtle shells, a sparkling gown with tentacles and trademark looks from the film create an animated palette.

The looks come courtesy of designer Anthony Allen, who also plays romantic interest, Prince Eric. The boyish Allen adds personality to his one-note character, particularly during a sweet moment of dance with Ariel. Ariel, a young mermaid princess, has traded her voice to the sea witch, Ursula, in exchange for legs. She has just three days to find true love's kiss, while Ursula secretly plans to use the situation to manipulate King Triton and steal his throne.

The stage musical stays largely true to the 1989 movie, albeit with a completely rewritten finale. As with any great villain, Jazmyne Toney's bold and defiant Ursula takes the show with her "Poor Unfortunate Souls." And character favorite Chef Louis, as played by the hysterical Josh Kirwin, has a fantastic time working the audience for laughs in "Les Poisson." Numbers like "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" could use more flair in overall scenic design, but Gianna Nemie's resourceful choreography and Cole Bryant's lively vocals as Sebastian the crab keep the action going.

Magical new songs written by Alan Menken add even more heart to the beloved story and highlight the childlike innocence and curiosity of Kirstin Pieschke's lovely Ariel. The mermaid's pals Flounder and Scuttle (the very talented Brandon Masterson and Michael Vinyard) also get their own moments to shine in numbers like "She's in Love" and "Positoovity." Musical director Paul Kimball leads the fairly new orchestra and an ensemble with good vocals. Rachel Foley and Carina Barney deserve special mention for their turns as the adorable gold and blue royal seahorses, Windward and Leeward. The two are the perfect example of the subtle, yet varied creativity on display throughout.

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Photo by Geroge Hong

THE LITTLE MERMAID
Stockton Civic Theatre
Through Dec 13
http://sctlivetheatre.com/

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