Disney’s The Little Mermaid
St. Albert Children’s Theatre
Nov. 23 to 24 and Nov. 29 to Dec. 1
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: Adult $30, Child/senior $23.50 Call 780-459-1542 or through ticketmaster.ca
The American film industry is enamoured with churning out stories on sibling rivalry, teenage rebellion and the desire for a clear identity. While it can become heavy-handed, there was always something magical about the Disney film animation The Little Mermaid.
The animated musical won multiple Oscars, introduced several song standards and is credited with resuscitating a stagnant musical genre.
Despite its universal appeal and brilliantly scored music, it made a difficult transition to Broadway where it underperformed when compared to Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
But after a major rewrite of Doug Wright’s original book, the sea tale included meatier character back-stories and new songs by Alan Menken and Glen Slater. Quickly picking up steam, it became a staple of theatres across the continent.
St. Albert Children’s Theatre helms the revamped version and the Thursday opening at the Arden Theatre proved to be an exciting, engaging and fun night for the whole family.
It’s pretty much what you would expect to see in an aesthetically pleasing production that brings the story to life in a stunning way. There was no need for whale-size sets or super high-tech gadgetry.
But Jackie Pooke’s high-energy choreography allowed the title character, Ariel, and other merfolk to navigate the stage in Heelys, giving the impression of fast, graceful swims.
Designer Marissa Kochanski’s candy-toned props and parade of rainbow-coloured costumes offset by a simple multi-tiered set effectively relays the vitality and hugeness of the sea.
It also doubles communicating the palace’s wide spaces where Prince Eric, Ariel’s human love, feels equally lost and lonely. The unobstructed space also allows lighting designer Andrew Tudge to create an incredible kaleidoscope of illuminated moods.
Despite the number of hit songs such as the vivid Part of Your World, Under the Sea and Les Poissons, the show occasionally lurchs. However, the buoyant cast directed by Janice Flower, keeps the show swimming full speed ahead.
As Ariel, Jillian Aisenstat is rebellious, charming and witty with the same fun-loving attitude and idealistic spirit of her cartoon counterpart.
And boy, can she sing. Her youthful soprano voice resonates with beauty and sincerity, much like Jodi Benson’s did in the original animation.
Ben Brown, who performs Eric, has both the good looks of a Disney prince and the mellow tenor voice that glides easily from melody to melody.
Julia Shaw as Ursula, the two-faced malicious sea witch, is both creepy and riveting while singing about evil deeds in Poor Unfortunate Souls and Daddy’s Little Angel.
Matt Boisvert, as King Triton, creates one of the night’s memorable moments pointing his magical trident at Ariel’s human treasure trove and shooting lightning bolts to destroy it.
Hayden Libich plays Scuttle the crash-prone seagull spouting malapropisms while Adam Skogstad’s Sebastian is both crabby and caring. Woodley Connor as Flounder gives the cast a dose of cute lovestruck innocence even as Mason Kidney’s Grimsby reveals a paternal side behind the face of loyal retainer.
The Little Mermaid’s two-hour-plus running time may be too long for the smallest of children, but all in all, it’s a seaworthy vessel.