In the land of basketball and BBQ, it is easy to forget that North Carolina also has a notable ballet company. Carolina Ballet’s production of Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s The Little Mermaid, running Feb. 2-19 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, will delight the young and the young at heart, with its cartoon colors, stunning costumes, and sublime artistry.
Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale comes to life, with video integrated into the stage design and production. This creates a visual environment that transports the audience to the magical world of childhood dreams, where dancing fish, evil witches, and beautiful princesses plot their schemes and fall in love.
The show introduces the undersea friends of The Little Mermaid (played at 5 p.m. last Saturday by Haley Jennings) as they gather to celebrate her 16th birthday, which marks a rite of passage where mermaids go to the surface for a day and return with a story to tell. Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s party-scene choreography is brilliant, with each character being true to its animal spirit. Campy crabs Ashley Hathaway and Adam Crawford Chavis do a lateral dance and aqua-colored Anemone Annie (Amanda Gerhardt) floats as if swayed by the current.
Everyone has a fine time until the evil Sea Witch (Jacqueline Schiller) crashes the party, arriving like a rock star on a throne. Despite being welcomed, the witch cannot play nice for long when she hears the melodic voice of The Little Mermaid and is consumed with jealousy over it.
The Sea King, played by Kiefer Curtis, casts the witch out; and feeling secure, The Little Mermaid takes her birthday trip and immediately rescues a handsome prince swept overboard from a ship during a storm. This scene was visually stunning, with huge menacing waves and dancers projected on the screen giving the illusion of swimming upward through water.
Haley Jennings is well-cast as the 16-year-old Little Mermaid, and she plays the role with a very appealing mixture of youthful hope and innocence. Prince Christian, played by Miles Sollars-White, makes a dashing prince.
The Little Mermaid falls instantly in love with Prince Christian, who is enraptured by The Little Mermaid’s unusual voice; but having been in a state of drowning when they met, he is duped into believing Sonia, a local peasant girl played by Amanda Babayan, is his rescuer with the angelic voice and immediately sets a wedding date.
The Little Mermaid returns to her underwater world heartbroken; and the Sea Witch, seeing her chance, offers her a trade: Legs for her voice. This production is a far kinder telling than the original version of the story; and this scene is played for laughs, which the children in the audience were happy to provide.
This production has several large ensemble numbers that are just marvelous, but my favorite was the fight between the Sea King and the Sea Witch. The two dancers had a great energy together, and I wondered if they were really fighting or if The Little Mermaid was going to come home to the worst new stepmother ever.
After “rescuing” the mute Little Mermaid, Prince Christian shows up to his own wedding with her in tow. Despite this huge red flag, Sonia, the pretender bride and her girlfriends played by Carmen Felder and Courtney Schenberger, manage to thwart The Little Mermaid at every fanciful leap and turn; and the ceremony progresses until the moment the Prince is to seal the deal with a ring. It is at that moment that he stops and asks Sonia to sing.
In the original tale, The Little Mermaid sacrifices everything for the chance at human love and a human soul, and it doesn’t work out so well for her. Even in the Disney version, she leaves everything and everyone she loves to be with her prince on dry land; but this adaptation is more progressive. It is the Prince who sacrifices his home and his life for love and, in doing so, wins the heart of his princess and the hearts of all of the little princesses watching from the audience.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 1st Raleigh, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-little-mermaid/Event?oid=5101784; and Jan. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Linda Haac: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article128896114.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 4th Triangle Review review by Dawn Reno Langley, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/02/the-little-mermaid-is-a-big-hit-for-carolina-ballet/.)
The Carolina Ballet presents Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s THE LITTLE MERMAID at 1 and 5 p.m. Feb. 11, 2 p.m. Feb. 12, 1 and 5 p.m. Feb. 18, and 2 p.m. Feb. 19 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $50.14-$88.14 (including fees), except $20 per ticket for college students with ID.
Carolina Ballet Box Office: 919-719-0900 or https://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-719-0900 or http://www.carolinaballet.com/get-tickets/group-sales/.
SHOW: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/the-little-mermaid, https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/repertoire-entry/P57, https://www.facebook.com/events/750396511768602/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/little-mermaid-7084.
2016-17 SEASON: https://www.carolinaballet.com/program/2016-2017-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, https://twitter.com/carolinaballet, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_Ballet.
Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Carolina Ballet principal guest choreographer): http://www.lynnetaylor-corbett.com/ (official website), https://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/lynne-taylor-corbett (Carolina Ballet bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/lynne-taylor-corbett-1480 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0853360/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Taylor-Corbett (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director and choreographer): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manger, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.