The Broadway musical production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid swam into Anchorage October 22nd and is delighting young and old alike for a 6 day run of 8 performances now through Sunday October 27th at the Atwood Concert Hall.
A vivid theatrical fantasy, the 30-year-old ultimate fish-out-of-water story is adapted from the 1989 Disney animated feature produced by the late Howard Ashman and John Musker and based on the book by Hans Christian Anderson.
The Little Mermaid is set below and above the high seas and tells the classic tale of Ariel, an adventurous teenage mermaid whose fascination with the surface and shiny human trinkets quickly takes her off course and into a world that she doesn’t belong. Unknowingly, Ariel (played by the talented Madeline Ellingson) enchants a handsome prince with her sea-surface singing while he sails aboard his ship, trying to escape the pressures of adulting. The real trouble begins for Ariel when she rescues the prince (played by Tyler Scherer) after he is cast into the sea during a storm and brings him to surface. Of course, Ariel is quick to fall in love and obsesses for a new life above the ocean’s surface but when her Merisisters and father, King Tritan discover the forbidden love, Tritan (played by Christopher Showerman) quickly destroys her collection of human trinkets, and forbids her return to the surface. In true teenage fashion, the defiant Ariel is quickly persuaded to seek out the sea witch Ursula to help her “run away from home” by trading her mesmerizing voice for human legs.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid is reinvented for live audiences, the Broadway production is written and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, with additional music and lyrics by Academy Award winner, Alan Menken, and new lyricist Glenn Slater. The original storyline of course remains intact, but has expanded storylines and backstories to enhance the theatrical mood for live theater. This rendition was based on the book by Doug Wright, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright.
As in typical Disney fashion The Little Mermaid is a big-BIG-budget production. Under the direction of stage manager John Galo, an epic underwater world is created through the brilliant melding of high-tech lighting, designed by Chad Bonaker, vividly playful costumes, created by Leon Dobkowski, and the surface-to-sea-floor shimmery set sensations designed by J. Branson.
The orchestra, under the direction of musical director, Lloyd Cooper, created a reassuring and heartwarming backdrop for the ensemble whilst delivering riveting and powerful sound effects during the more dramatic scenes, such as the fateful storm that cast Prince Eric overboard and into the arms of Ariel below.
The addition of newer songs, by Menken and Slater, such as "She's In Love," sung by Ariel’s Merisisters and her miffed BFF, Flounder (played by Katherine Hauge), will have you and yours fully engaged and smiling from start to finish. And if you enjoy harmonizing, beautiful female vocals, than you will find yourself completely mesmerized by the new musical additions – my personal favorite auditory experience of the evening.
That said, not all new songs delivered the same level of impact and the extra scenes slowed down the pace of the story that I found a bit disconnected for an all-ages event. I believe my 4-year-old mini-me would agree as she quickly became fidgety when the action slowed or sets scenes repeated. On more than one occasion I felt like the octo-limbed Ursula trying to control one of her slippery eel sidekicks, just to keep her in her seat, or even mine. Thankfully more dramatic scenes commenced which quickly grabbed her attention and planted her firmly once again where she belonged.
I also found it challenging for my little-little, due to the length of the show, 2.5 hours, only one intermission break (two would have been best), and not sitting closer to the stage and orchestra – which she is absolutely captivated by. But I found it reassuring due to having seats on the end of an isle and in close proximity to an exit, in the event I had to make a not-so-graceful escape with toddler in tow.
Observing the crowd I saw only a few other squiggly wigglies, but the school aged children appeared fully engaged and many sang along, including adults – with or without children, to the more iconic songs throughout the performance – another moment I fully enjoyed!
Overall, the storyline remained intact and will not disappoint the more purist Disney fans devoted to the original film. This high-quality Broadway-esque adaptation of The Little Mermaid delivers in a major way. Young and old alike will sure to be uplifted, inspired, and reminded of the beauty and magic that musical theater continues to bring to our community.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid is presented by Anchorage Concert Association and Plan-B Entertainment and is part of the Broadway in Anchorage series for the ACA 2019/2020 season.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit anchorageconcerts.org. Tickets are available through this weekend at CenterTix box office (263-ARTS).