Fresh off the experience of being the biggest winner of a national competition of community theaters, Tacoma Musical Playhouse presents a sweet and romantic musical for the entire family, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
This is not a children’s play. It’s theater for grown-ups with adult actors, but it most definitely appeals to children. There were many in the audience opening night, mostly little girls wearing Ariel’s crown (for sale in the lobby for $5), and they clearly loved the show, even to the point of chasing bubbles in the aisles.
It’s not the most highly polished show TMP has produced. It starts off slow and feels a bit wooden, but becomes lively beginning with the big song-and-dance number, “Under the Sea,” featuring Isaiah Parker as Sebastian the crab, and gets progressively better from that point.
Most scenes take place underwater, which created technical challenges that were unevenly met.
Some set pieces pushed on stage by hand are not up to TMP’s usual excellent standards. The boat Prince Eric (Colin Briskey) sails and the big rocks on the seashore look like something seen in a school production.
But other set pieces, such as the lair for Ursula the sea witch (Nancy Herbert Bach) and a palm-tree-shaped coral with fish swimming around it, are marvelous.
John Chenault’s usual excellent lighting lends an aura of magic to these sets. Interestingly, no set designer is listed in the program, so I assume that was a group effort.
To further the illusion of being underwater, many of the characters are flown on wires, which is done admirably, and the mermaids move in waving motions throughout. They do so beautifully.
Based on the popular children’s book by Hans Christian Anderson and the Disney movie of the same name, the story is well known:
Ariel (Cherisse Martinelli) falls in love with Prince Eric and longs to become human. She agrees to a wager, giving her voice to the evil Ursula in exchange for a spell that makes her human for three days. The horrible catch is she can’t speak and must get the prince to kiss her before time runs out or the spell will be broken and her soul will be doomed to Ursula’s control forever.
Martinelli is highly expressive as Ariel, in turn loveable, comical, love sick and pensive. She is delightful in the scene where she is learning to walk on human legs. She’s as wobbly as a newborn colt, and she keeps falling with a precious look of surprise on her face.
Parker is terrific as her helpmate, Sebastian. I loved his mobile face and quick changes of expression, and he sings sweetly.
Briskey has the clearest and strongest singing voice of the cast, and plays Prince Eric as dignified and down-to-earth.
Erik Furuheim as Chef Louis provides the funniest passage in the play as he prepares a seafood dinner for Ariel while singing “Les Poissons,” joined by the ensemble with a reprise as he prepares to butcher poor Sebastian and serve him on a platter whereupon a delightful slap-stick chase scene ensues.
Also outstanding is Jake Atwood as the wisecracking seagull, Scuttle. His tap dancing, backed by an ensemble of dancing seagulls on the upbeat tune “Positoovity,” is wonderful — with feathers a flying.
Johnny Neidlinger is a disappointment as King Triton. His costume and makeup were harsh and unattractive, and his acting was stiff.
Typical of TMP, the large ensemble numbers are the highlight of the show. Director Jon Douglas Rake’s choreography is grand, as is the music by the great Alan Menken.
Finally, deserving of special note is costume designer Jocelyne Fowler and assistant Grace Stone. Their costumes are colorful and inventive; the mermaid’s dresses are lovely, and some off the oddest ones, such as Ursula’s squid costume and the long-tailed, lighted eels Flotsam and Jetson are hilariously creative.
Check Alec’s blog at alecclayton.blogspot.com for reviews of other area theatrical productions.
The Little Mermaid
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
WHERE: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
INFORMATION: 253-565-6867; www.tmp.org
‘Addams Family’ big winner for TMP
Tacoma Musical Playhouse was a top winner at this year’s AACTFest, receiving eight major awards for its September production of “The Addams Family.”
Every other year, the American Association of Community Theatres honors the top community theaters in the United States. This year, 12 productions from the past two seasons were entered in the competition.
The Addams Family won the following awards:
▪ Outstanding Production.
▪ Outstanding Achievement in a Leading Role: Actor — Rafe Wadleigh (Gomez Addams).
▪ Outstanding Achievement in a Featured Role: Actor — Jonathan Bill (Lurch).
▪ Outstanding Achievement in a Supporting Role: Actress — Savana Masako Smith (Wednesday).
▪ Outstanding Achievement in Ensemble Performance.
▪ Outstanding Achievement in Set Design — Dennis Kurtz and Ely Mattson.
▪ Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design – Cedric Leggin
▪ Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design — Jocelyne Fowler.
TMP Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake was honored with the David C. Bryant Outstanding Service Award for significant, valuable and lasting service to community theater.
In addition, TMP was given the Distinguished Merit Award, presented to individuals and organizations in recognition of contributions made to promote and develop the highest standards for community theater.
AACT represents more than 7,000 theaters in the United States and its territories, as well as theater companies with the U.S. Armed Services overseas.