CENTERVLLE — As a 10-year-old in 1989, The Little Mermaid is the first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater. As Ariel sang the beautiful lyrics about wanting to be a part of something different, I remember discovering how Alan Menken and Howard Ashman could speak to me in a whole new way. In 2008, Disney opened a stage adaptation on Broadway (with new songs by Menken and new lyrics by Glenn Slater), and the production has been entertaining audiences all over the world ever since. CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville is the latest theatre in Utah to mount such a production.
There is an entire crew credited for a pleasing visual design, with Cynthia Klump as scenic charge artist, Joshua Roberts with projection design, Michael Gray with lighting design, and various others in the crew that developmed of a memorable set and visual style. My seven-year-old daughter was one of many children in the audience that seemed transfixed on the set that transported them into a different world. The stage had elements that were easily transformed to scenes under the sea, a majestic ship, and beautiful palace. One of my favorite moments included the technical projection elements, such as the reprise of “Part of Your World” that magically recreated the iconic moment from the movie and caused several audience members to gasp. Other memorable moments include the transformation of Ariel from mermaid to human, as well as anytime Ursula and her sidekicks were on stage with their glow in the dark hair, makeup, and costumes. Costume designer Katie Miller and wigs/hair and makeup designer Hope Bird did a fantastic job of bringing the ocean creatures to life.
Director Danny Inkley put together a wonderful cast for this production. Musical direction by Derek Myler and choreography by Kelley Richardson contributed seamlessly to the story that Inkley wanted to present. In a production like The Little Mermaid, bringing to life the character of Ariel is integral to the whole production. Emily Wells proved to be up to the task in a magnificent way. Her voice was clear and precise, but Wells was also able to bring life to the character in a different and inventive way, making it her own in a way that I did not think possible. Jake Heyward as Prince Eric was a complementary match to Wells, and I enjoyed many of their interactions, especially seeing Wells utilize facial expressions and communication well when Ariel had lost her voice.
Many of the supporting characters were also endearing. Of special note was young Ben Roylance as Flounder, who has a fun number with the mermaid sisters called “She’s In Love,” where he was able to shine vocally and give an endearing performance. Shelby Ferrin as Scuttle was also a highlight, and the act two opener “Positoovity” was a perfect display of his talent and skill. Ursula, played by Janae Klumpp was delightfully evil and terrifying, and I was thoroughly impressed with both of her performance in “Daddy’s Little Angel” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Flotsom and Jetsam, played by Allison Hogge and Jordan Davis, portrayed strong sidekicks, and their dancing and costuming were ideal for conveying the illusion that they were swimming eels.
The stage version of The Little Mermaid follows the story of the movie pretty closely, with a bit of a plot twist and a few new songs. I was not sure how I would feel about seeing The Little Mermaid translated on stage and admit that I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the evening. Any fan of the movie would enjoy CenterPoint’s production, and it is a fantastic show to bring young people to in order to gain love of the theater. I do think that one of the best ways to enjoy a production like this is to bring a young person along because the magic that happens with the set and music seems to be magnified by the wonder in the faces of small audience members. Watching the children in the audience was almost as enjoyable as watching the production itself, as little girls were dressed in princess dresses and my own daughter gasped in amazement at the technical effects. There were many times when I was glad that there are these options available on the Utah stage.
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