LITTLE MERMAID – Music by Alan Menken; Book by Doug Wright; Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater; Directed by Matthew D. Peters. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe) through September 8. Tickets available at 303/449-6000 or www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com.
BDT has truly outdone themselves with their version of LITTLE MERMAID. Technically, it is one of the most ambitious shows they have mounted. Director Matthew Peters has re-imagined the whole show and come up with some startling visual images and lovely little gizmo’s and whatsits to please the eye. With the assistance of his willing cast and creative tech team, he has envisioned a whole new world for Ariel and Eric.
Amy Campion’s scenic design goes above and beyond fulfilling the demands of this complicated show – first, you’re under water; then you’re on land and in a castle; then you’re back under water. Ariel’s grotto was lovely and the largest I’ve seen. Ursula’s cave was a wonder of fire and water; the “Under The Sea” number was alight with glitz and glamour. The combination of set, lights and sound combined to make a very realistic storm at sea. Projections of underwater scenes thrown against the back wall kept the audience firmly planted under the sea when appropriate.
The swimming (flying) effects arrived quite unexpectedly when Ariel nonchalantly decided to go for a swim. Great visual pictures were achieved using the fly system such as when Ariel rescued Eric from a storm at sea which threw him overboard. Ariel’s transformation from a mermaid to a girl was greatly enhanced by doing it as she swam upward toward land. The seagull Scuttle made most of his entrances flying onto the stage. Their use of the fly system randomly throughout the production was thoughtfully planned but surprising to the audience.
A whole set of special kudos goes to Linda Morken and her crew who put together a complete set of newly designed costumes. Ariel and her sisters had lovely – each different – mermaid tails and spectacular wigs/hair dressings. Ursula’s costume of tentacles and a wicked white wig was amazing and created the character before a word was spoken. The “human” costumes were equally compelling and colorful. But Morken and Company really went ALL OUT on the “Under the Sea” fish costumes. My favorites were the Lion Fish with four foot spikes down the back and the clear umbrellas transformed into jelly fish. Brilliant!!
Director Peters also lovingly choreographed the show using new and creative movements for his fish people. The six dancers who appear as the Mersisters and later as the Princesses trying to win Eric’s hand with their “talent” were especially impressive and added a lot of humor to the evening. Scuttle and his fellow seagulls tried to teach Ariel how to walk by teaching her how to tap dance in “Positoovity.” Once again, the “Under the Sea” production number provided a visual feast of dance, song, color and lights.
Lillian Buonocore, a Senior at UNC, makes a splashy debut at BDT as Ariel. She has the soft dreamy look of the Disney princess and a sweet singing voice. She is joined by fellow UNC student, Cole LaFonte, as Prince Eric. They are really turning out talented performers from the UNC Musical Theatre program as Cole brings a youthful confidence and polished performance to his Prince Eric. Chas Lederer as the lovestruck Flounder and Bob Hoppe as Scuttle are Ariel’s two best friends. Scott Beyette does a very funny turn as Prince Eric’s Chef Louis as he chases the lobster Sebastian through two scenes in the castle including a very funny Whack-A-Mole sequence. BDT company member Alicia Meyers shines as the evil Ursula determined to destroy her brother, King Triton (Scott Severtson) through his daughter. She has the laugh, she has the look, she has the power to personify pure evil . . . with a sense of humor. She doesn’t scare even the tiniest child in the audience; she’s having too much fun to be scary.
Sebastian, the worldly wise lobster, as well as Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s two eel minions, are enhanced by puppets. In most productions using puppets, after the first few minutes, you – as an audience member – have embraced the deceit and stop looking at the actor manipulating the puppet and just watch the puppet “act.” These puppets however did not engage me; their mouths did not open enough or their expressions were too static. I watched the actors throughout the show. This is, however, a minor complaint about a magnificent production.
I will note that it did seem a little sacrilegious to include fish dishes on the menu of a production of LITTLE MERMAID. Just saying . . .
A WOW factor of 9!!