by Dominic Spillane (01/05/18)
I just saw the Little Mermaid with my 4 year old daughter. This was the first professional play she’s ever seen. I was blown away. What an incredible production! So much attention was payed to every detail. As we walked in my daughter couldn’t stop talking about how it looked like we were under water. She was riveted. Literally sitting on the edge of her seat and commenting (quite loudly - sorry actors) throughout the entire performance. I’ve never seen The Little Mermaid on stage before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve always wondered how they would pull this off. Also, I don’t know how many elements (design, choreography, etc.) carry over from the Broadway production vs. how much liberty Northern Stage can have with the material, but I thought all elements of the production were executed with so much detail and creativity that you couldn’t help but be swept away by the joy of live theater. With an empty stage, filled periodically with sparse set pieces to give you a location, the focus was spent on lighting, sound, truly incredible costumes (fish, crabs, mermaids, jellyfish, a school of fish! inspired wigs!), and fantastic performances. Dani Westhead (Ariel) was an absolute joy. My daughter kept commenting (during the show) on how she was her favorite, and how beautiful she was - during a quiet moment in the dinner scene with Prince Eric, “Wow, she REALLY likes being a human now doesn’t she?” David Bryant Johnson (Prince Eric) makes Prince Eric lovable, optimistic, and strong without being flat or boring. Leslie Becker (Ursula) had the biggest shoes to fill for me (Ursula is my favorite Disney villain). She was every bit as joyfully wicked as I hoped she would be. Also, she touched my daughters hand during the curtain call - either it was that or Leslie’s performance, but my daughter believes Ursula is nice (has always been nice) and that she only killed Ariel’s mother by accident while she was, “inking around”. I could go on about everyone, but the real stars of the show were the ensemble cast members, and the great direction by Chad Larabee. Musical ensembles can sometimes look and act like a group of colorful, synchronized, singing extras. Great attention was payed to making sure that each member of the ensemble had an individual life and character of their own. Everywhere you looked someone was doing something interesting, telling you more about the world you were looking into. Flotsam (Cameron Edris) and Jetsam (Tony Conaty) literally never stopped moving like eels, writhing with mischievous delight at Ursula’s every word. Michael Penick (Chef Louis) slayed me. He performed “Les Poissons” with such absolute glee, I couldn’t believe it, maybe my favorite moment of the show. Saidu Sinlah’s (Sebastian) was great, I really believed he cared about Ariel, and wasn’t just trying to save a bad situation. I didn’t love the subplot about Flounder having feelings for Ariel, but Margaret Finley pulled it off without losing Flounder’s best friend qualities. The singing was excellent from everyone. Thank you Northern Stage for such a great introduction to theater for my daughter, and for such a fun time for me as well. I can’t wait to see more shows!