After a mediocre run on Broadway in 2008, Disney's The Little Mermaid, the musical, was left to languish until 2012, when a Dutch production re-imagined the show.
They changed the score and book, ditched the roller shoes, and used flying harnesses to create the illusion of underwater movement. Thankfully, it's the 2012 version that Rainbow Stage is producing. Although mermaids on roller skates would have been something to see.
'Rainbow Stage's production of Disney's The Little Mermaid is recommended for redheads, families with small children, and all those who still believe in true love.' - Michelle Palansk
The story is your basic teen underwater romance. The mermaid Ariel dreams of a life above the sea. Prince Eric dreams of a life as a sailor, far removed from his duties as future king. You get these two crazy kids together and well, Ursula the sea witch describes it best. “The only thing more powerful than my black magic? Teenage hormones.”
Although modified from the 1989 screen version, all of the songs fans know and love are featured prominently in the show. The differences are fun too. In a modern twist, the princesses of the court vie for Prince Eric's affection in a sing-off that's one part American Idol and several parts pure ham.
Ann Hodges's production has some high water moments.
“Kiss the Girl” is as lush and romantic as you could hope. Addin Church, as Sebastian the crab, croons swooningly, the costumes are stunning, and the quality of movement from the swans and snails simply steals the scene.
Prince Eric's drowning scene staged as an aerial duet is fluid and graceful. Unexpected and really lovely.
Vince Staltari, Chef Louis, is everything you could hope for in the role of the classic French chef with the killer instinct. The mixture of homicidal rage and tender love he brings to seafood preparation is very funny to watch.
Seeming to have the time of her life, Jennifer Lyon, as Ursula the sea witch, is magnificent. She brings sheer demonic glee to her role as uber villain of the underwater.
The romantic leads in a story like The Little Mermaid are rather thankless roles. They're too often humourless and earnest. However, Marc Devine, as Prince Eric, overcomes the Prince Charming doldrums and beguiles and captivates the crowd. No easy feat.
Colleen Furlan stars as Ariel. She looks perfect. She sings beautifully. She dances well. She does not always earn her moments on stage. There is a critical moment in the first act when Ariel gives in to terrible temptation and seeks the black magic of her aunt Ursula. It's a high stakes decision that changes everything. The way Furlan played it on opening night, it felt more like a random whim than a choice fuelled by desperation. That being said - it's a long run. I'm sure this newcomer to the stage will find her fins.
Some scenes completely fail to keep their heads above water.
When Ariel's father, Kevin Aichele, destroys Ariel's secret cave of artifacts, there's some poofs of smoke, a couple of flashes of light, and... not much more. A little underwhelming and probably not worth the price of the pyrotechnics.
Ursula's death is particularly disappointing. In the big moment, Ariel boldly stands up to her aunt Ursula, peels off a piece of the sea witch's magical shell, and Ursula dies. That's it. It's more like watching a cooking show on how to peel an onion than the final death match between the teen mermaid and her arch-enemy. Meh.
Taking the highs with the lows, there is a lot to like about this show. It runs at a good pace, the costumes are beautiful, the singing and dancing are high calibre, and it's fun to watch scenes from a beloved childhood movie come to life.
Rainbow Stage's production of Disney's The Little Mermaid is recommended for redheads, families with small children, and all those who still believe in true love.
The Little Mermaid runs at Rainbow Stage until August 29.
As a special bonus for those who read to the end of the review, Rainbow Stage now has semi-secret port-o-potties just around the entrance. They are pink, they smell like bubblegum, and they are far preferable to the interminable line to the women's restroom.