The Olney Theatre Center is currently presenting Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the stage adaptation of the classic 1989 Disney animated film. Can you believe the film is celebrating its 25th anniversary?
“But how does the stage show compare to the film?” you may ask. There is a special magic in film that can’t be duplicated on stage. But the same holds true with theatre. There is a special magic in live theatre that can’t be duplicated on film.
In a clam shell, the stage play has all your favorite characters and songs, but is longer. The film is 92 minutes in length, while the stage show is 2 hours and 15 minutes. To make it longer than the film, Disney brought back composer Alan Menken to write some new, additional songs, teaming up with lyricist Glenn Slater. Sadly, the original lyricist, Howard Ashman passed away in 1991. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright was also brought in by Disney to write the book.
…a splashing success!
Even though the new songs are composed by Alan Menken, he just can’t match the quality he had while working with Howard Ashman. Luckily, the cast at Olney Theatre is so talented, they are able to take the sometimes lackluster new songs and still make them quite entertaining.
As far as visual expectations are concerned you need not worry. Olney Theare Center has created a visually appealing spectacle in terms of costumes, sets, and lighting.
Costume designer Pei Lee chose bright, cheerful, and appealing colors. Most notable is the Ursula, the Sea Witch costume. Pei Lee brings this Disney villain to life with a black dress with octopus tentacles and glittery purple embellishments. The headpiece makes for some very whimsical black and white hair,while the face make-up is just spooky enough without being too scary.
Scenic designer James Fouchard helps to create an underwater world, complete with the challenging task of figuring out how to make water on stage.
Lighting designer Julie H. Duro adds colorful bursts of blue, purple, and red, setting the mood just right for both the under the sea and on land adventures.
Director Mark Waldrop has cast a fine ensemble of performers who stay true to the characters of the original film, and in some cases are even better.
Joe Chisholm is Ariel’s love interest, Prince Eric. To date, Mr. Chisholm gives the finest interpretation of a prince I’ve seen on stage. He is charming, in a sincere sort of way. Vocally, he is also appealing. Singing “Her Voice,” a song about the voice he heard after he was saved from drowning, he delivers a pleasant tone and enough vibrato to add life to the notes. What is more, he really comes across as if he is in love with Ariel (Lara Zinn).
There is a lot of weight on Lara Zinn’s shoulders…I mean fins. There are high-expectations for this role. The show is, after all, called The Little Mermaid. Thankfully, Ms. Zinn fits nicely into her role as Ariel. She looks, sounds, and acts the part of what we expect from the role of Ariel. I know that sounds pretty general, but after you hear her sing the show’s crowning jewel, “Part of Your World,” you will see what I mean.
Adding some high-flying, bird-brained antics is Clark Young as Scuttle, a seagull and friend of Ariel. Like Ariel, he loves human objects. For example, he wrongly names a fork a “dinglehopper” and says that it is used as a comb. With his large eye expressions and funny character voice, Mr. Young really makes this character take flight. He and the ensemble give it their all in the song “Positoovity,” where Scuttle and his seagull friends perform an entertaining tap dance, choreographed by Tara Jeanne Vallee.
Stealing Ariel’s voice, as well as stealing the show, is none other than Donna Migliaccio as Ursula, the Sea Witch. With the assistance of her two eels, Flotsam (Nurney) and Jetsam (Robert Mintz), Ursula plans to take over the sea kingdom. I would argue to say that Donna Migliaccio’s Ursula is even better than the performance in the animated film. Don’t be one of those “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and miss her performance!
Kenneth Derby as Grimsby, Sean McComas as Flounder, Nicholas Ward as King Triton, and Troy Hopper as Sebastian round out the cast.
Director Mark Waldrop truly did a wonderful job at bringing together a wonderful cast and creative team. Olney Theatre Center’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a splashing success!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 15 minutes including one intermission.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid plays through December 28, 2014 at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD. For tickets, call (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.