When I first saw wrongly-maligned Broadway Little Mermaid, I thought “what is everybody complaining about? This is solid musical theater entertainment.” It’s not visionary, not earth-shattering, just a tuneful love story that should thoroughly entertain the kiddies and divert the adults.
In case you somehow missed the classic Disney film on which the show is based, beautiful young mermaid princess Ariel becomes obsessed with the fascinating creatures that live on land – especially Eric, a particularly handsome human prince. In order to experience land-locked life, she has to defy her father the king, make a shady pact with an evil sea witch and prove to Eric that she’s the girl for him.
The current Paper Mill Playhouse revival replaces the Broadway production’s obsession with roller shoes (which didn’t thrill me) with more traditional – and more spectacular – “Flying by Foy” effects. Together with John MacInnes undulating choreography and Kenneth Foy’s whimsically operatic sets, these convey a fabulous underwater world much more effectively than their Broadway counterparts. In particular, “Under The Sea” makes up for the relatively small chorus size with fantastic jellyfish puppets and an array of other special effects.
The show’s biggest special effect, however, is the belt-tastic Liz McCartney as the witch Ursula, especially when she reinvents “Poor Unfortunate Souls” to thunderous applause. She owns the song as no previous Ursula has done, just legendary stuff. Put all this together with composer Alan Menken’s glittering score and Doug Wright’s light-handed book, and you’ve got a truly delectable salt water confection.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.