Disney’s The Little Mermaid: taking upstage to the extreme

What show can pull every redhead in town, under 4 ½ feet tall, out of the woodwork wearing their favorite hues of blue/green sequence? What underwater tale has all the big people singing the 1989 classic music word for word in their seats. Why, The Little Mermaid, of course.

This week opens Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Fabulous Fox Theater. Not only is this evening filled with what the Fox has to offer; with ushers calling all the little girls princesses, a priceless organ and player filling our auditory senses with tunes like “Under The Boardwalk” and “Fiddler on the Roof” classics and a dreamy Taj Mahal-like setting, it also has the magic of Disney.

The play is the classic 1989 film with the excitement of a live performance. Highlights were the creative use of space. The theater terms “upstage” and “downstage” were coined because the old theaters, dating back to the Shakespearian era, were “raked”, meaning at an angle or titled . So when a performer is at the back of the stage they are “upstage” and the converse is also true. This production took upstage to an extreme. During the underwater scenes, Director Glenn Casale accentuates the space with the characters flying into the uninhabitable area above the stage, literally “upstage”, allowing the audience to feel like we are swimming with the performers. As our aquatic characters maneuver around they undulate, ride gliding apparati and fly to create a luxurious weightless feel.

True to Disney form this show is all about the support characters and the actors do not disappoint. We have the pleasure of experiencing the original broadway cast member Alan Mingo Jr. as Sebastian ducking in and out from under Chef Louis’ butcher knife, a small but flavorful performance by Brian Ray Norris . Scott Leiendecker and Ben Roseberry delight, as the electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam, with their high pitched melodies and Matt Alan is hilarious as the urban influenced tap dancing seagull, Scuttle. The pièce de résistance, however, is Liz McCartney, as one of my personal favorite villains, Ursuala. McCartney’s gravitas takes over the stage, her cheesy jokes are delivered perfectly and accentuated by a resonating belly laugh. Her costume, designed by Amy Clark and Mark Moss, manipulated by her two little minions, is magnificent and creates the illusion of her being a true aquatic beast, but not to the point of giving the little ones nightmares.

So the Dancer With An Attitude gives this production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid 3 thumbs up for Family Fun. So go catch, the daily special at the Fox theater today and tomorrow, June 12th and 13th and get your tickets for this wonderful underwater family adventure.