Disney’s 1989 film The Little Mermaid easily became an instant classic when it was released. So, it’s no wonder that its Broadway incarnation has been equally successful. North Carolina Theatre’s stage version, directed by Jennifer Werner and starring the adorable Jessica Grové in the title role, is no exception. The story takes all of the classic elements of the films, adds a few songs here and there and a little extra exposition, and as expected, proves an instant audience-pleaser.
J. Branson’s scenery features a mixture of colorful screen graphics that make the “under the sea” setting more than clear, as well as beautifully painted backdrops, and Craig Stelzenmuller’s lighting design incorporates fanciful touches that make the foaming waves ripple and glisten. With these beautiful accompaniments, the first act goes along quite swimmingly (pun intended). The script does a good job of establishing that mermaid Ariel and Prince Eric (Ian Parmenter) both feel out of place in their respective worlds, and both cast members bear striking resemblances to their cartoon predecessors. Even more importantly, they belt out every much-loved lyric with gusto.
Minor characters also shine. Kevyn Morrow exudes strength and stellar stage presence in his role as King Triton, Ariel’s father, and young Joseph Gaitens charms audience members as Ariel’s fish-friend, Flounder. When things take a dark turn near the end of the second act, with Ariel sacrificing her voice and potentially her soul for a chance with Prince Eric, the villain, nasty-but-fabulous Ursula (Ellen Harvey) is every bit as evil as she should be.
As is expected with a Disney show, things wrap up nicely but a bit too quickly in the second act. And, while the production is undoubtedly fun, it does feel a bit…lacking. It’s somehow not quite big enough, cartoonish enough, or lively enough. In fact, unlike other Disney productions, it leaves audience members a little wistful for the animated version. Many of the added songs feel forced and trite, as does some of the added exposition (Triton and Ursula are siblings, etc.). The result is, overall, a tad disappointing for those who examine the production’s merit.
In spite of these flaws, however, it’s definitely a show that’s fun for families, devotees of the film, and anyone who deigns to be mindlessly entertained for a while.
The North Carolina Theatre presents DISNEY’S THE LITTLE MERMAID at 7:30 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $34.70-$110.15 (including fees).
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6949.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1127692.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 5204; email@example.com; or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/group-sales.
SHOW: http://www.nctheatre.com/shows/disneys-little-mermaid and https://www.facebook.com/events/587697637995117/.
2014 SEASON: http://www.nctheatre.com/2014-shows.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, and https://twitter.com/nctheatre.
BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2nd, performance.
The Little Mermaid (1837 Danish fairy tale): http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheLittleMermaid_e.html (Jean Hersholt’s English translation from the Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Mermaid (Wikipedia).
Hans Christian Andersen (Danish author, 1805-75): http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/liv/index_e.html (Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Christian_Andersen (Wikipedia).
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989 animated film): http://movies.disney.com/the-little-mermaid (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097757/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Mermaid_%281989_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Ron Clements (director and screenwriter): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Clements (Wikipedia).
John Musker (director and screenwriter): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Musker (Wikipedia).
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2008 Broadway musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000389 (Music Theatre International), http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=456221 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Mermaid_musical (Wikipedia).
Alan Menken (music): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12135 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (Wikipedia).
Glenn Slater (lyrics): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=80644 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Slater (Wikipedia).
Howard Ashman (lyrics): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6356 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Ashman (Wikipedia).
Doug Wright (book): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=113564 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Wright (Wikipedia).
Jennifer Werner (director): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=108311 (Internet Broadway Database).
Jessica Grové (actress): http://www.jessicagrove.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=91819 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0344106/ (Internet Movie Database) https://www.facebook.com/JessicaGroVay (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/JessicaGroVAY (Twitter page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.