By Christina Perryman
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in one of the most popular Disney movies for many reasons — great music, a relatable story line and interesting characters. Sure, most of the cast are merpeople, but the heart of the story, including teen rebellion, first love and parent/child clashes, resonates with many.
A stage version of the movie, with lyrics by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, debuted in 2007. Local audiences can see it now at The Players Club of Swarthmore, under the excellent direction of Ryan Stone.
“The Little Mermaid” follows Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, ruler of the seas. Ariel always felt she doesn’t quite fit in and desperately wants to live among the humans. Triton, who believes humans killed his wife, is understandably anti-people and forbids Ariel from going “up to the surface.” Things become very complicated when Ariel falls in love with the human Prince Eric. After a falling out with her father, she seeks the help of Ursula, Ariel’s sea witch aunt. Ursula agrees to make Ariel human for three days. During that time, Ariel has to make Eric fall in love with her, sealing it with a kiss, or else Ariel loses her soul to the sea witch. There is one huge catch — Ariel must trade her voice for the opportunity.
Stacy DiCandilo and Ben Long led the show as Ariel and Prince Eric. DiCandilo has a beautiful singing voice, expressive face and entertaining manor. The scene where Ariel learns to use her land legs is very funny. Long is charming with a hint of vulnerability. He, too, sings beautifully. Shelli Haynes Ezold was fabulous as Ursula. Ezold perfectly masked her evil intentions under the pretense of being misunderstood. She was a very likable villain.
Ariel’s sisters were well-played by Carli Anderson (Aquata), Sabrina Caputo (Andrina), Marissa Perri (Arista), Sarah Leakey (Attina), Maryleigh Sharp (Adella) and Meg Cranney (Alana). Josh Atkinson and Cassidy Else were wonderful as Flotsam and Jetsam. Ella Grossman was endearing as Flounder. Danielle Marone truly brought Scuttle to life with her movements and vocal expressions. Edward Emmi gave a strong performance as Grimsby and Richard Johnson, King Triton, had a commanding air, however, he was a bit monotone. Matthew Prince was energetic and fun, scuttling around as Sebastian, but his accent didn’t work.
The music is backed by “a hot crustacean band” led by Conductor and Musical Director Kevin Grane. Songs include familiar tunes including “Part of Your World,” “Kiss The Girl” and, my favorite, “Under The Sea” but the play has some catchy new songs including “She’s In Love,” “Positoovity” and, my favorite, “Daddy’s Little Angel.”
Set designer Jolene Petrowski created a magical underwater world. The use of fabric “waves,” moved by the children in the show, helped distinguish between the sea below and world above. Lighting by Robert Roettger enhanced the show’s dramatic moments. Costume designers Becky Wright, Betsy Berwick, Reba Ferdman, Sarah Gaughan and Dot Kowal helped transform the actors and actresses to mermaids, fish and birds. Particularly impressive was Ursula’s gown, complete with tentacles. I also liked Scuttle’s feathery frock. The costumes, like the set, were bright and colorful and true to the nature of the show.
There always has to be some changes from a film to stage version of a story, and most of the differences added to the show, however, I found Ursula’s downfall a little anti-climatic. Sometimes the blocking wasn’t great. During the dinner scene, flowers block Grimsby from audience members not sitting in the center and during the number “If Only,” Triton’s throne blocks Eric a bit.
Overall, “The Little Mermaid” is great family night out. The Players Club added many small details to make the show fun for the younger audiences, from kid-friendly concessions for sale to the coloring areas in the program and the bubbles falling from the sky during “Under The Sea.” My five-year-old, Lucas, was my “date” opening weekend. It was his first play and it was a terrific experience for him. He especially “liked Ariel’s singing” and the dancing, choreographed by Emily Fishman, Maria Byers and Stone.
“The Little Mermaid” runs at The Players Club of Swarthmore, 614 Fairview Ave., Swarthmore, through Dec. 9. Remaining performances are 7:30 p.m., Nov. 30 and Dec. 7, 8 p.m., Dec. 1, 2 and 9, and 2 p.m. Dec. 2, 3 and 9. Tickets are $25 for adults and $13 for children. For tickets or information, call 610-328-4271 or visit http://www.pcstheater.org/
A fog machine and strobe light are used.