'The Little Mermaid' review: Croswell’s enchanted production takes audiences under the sea
Courtesy of The Croswell Opera House
Mounting a production with the word “Disney” in the title is no easy feat. There’s a certain expectation that comes with the storied brand, and when it meshes with the standards The Croswell Opera House sets for each musical they produce, there’s plenty on the line. For some youngsters in attendance, this very well could be their first live theatrical experience and thus it becomes crucial all the bells and whistles work in unison-costuming, performances, makeup, production design-or you risk losing their interest. Well, judging by the children in attendance during the opening night performance of The Croswell’s “The Little Mermaid” it was evident everything director/choreographer Sarah Nowak and her production team had cooked up, worked and then some. Not just for the kiddos, but the adults, including myself, couldn’t help but smile the entire time.
Part of that is because the movie, which celebrated its 34th anniversary as the curtain dropped on opening night, has become the bonafide Disney adventure millennials have rallied around, and the music by Alan Menken remains timeless. The other is because The Croswell and crew have pulled out all the stops to ensure an immersive, under the sea experience. Something that’s not easy to do considering, well, the actors can’t really perform under water. And it took almost the entire population of Atlantica to pull this show off, with the combination of Marty Flake’s scenic work, Karl Kasischke’s sound design, vocal direction by Wynne Marsh, Ray Novak’s music direction, Pam Krage’s stunning costumes (she had the assistance of a small army) and flying direction by entertainment company Vertigo, there’s not a single weak link in the bunch.
Of course, the book by Doug Wright makes some minor changes from the film adaptation (especially with the ending, the addition of some new songs, and a few characters), but the central storyline remains unphased. It follows Ariel (Emma Skaggs - who brings more than enough warmth and sincerity to anchor this production) and her ambitions of leaving behind her under sea kingdom and becoming a human (when it came time for Skaggs to sing the showstopper “Part of Your World,” we were hanging on every word).
Joining her on stage is a vibrant ensemble who all have risen to the occasion (especially during the all hands on deck musical trifectas “Under the Sea” or “Kiss the Girl” which Nowak, alongside assistant director/choreographer Emily Flack, have crafted with the utmost attention to detail). Rounding out the cast is Zack Flack’s wise-cracking crustacean, and the always in way over his head, Sebastian, which is the perfect marriage of actor and character; Xavier Sarabia brings the swashbuckling goods as the dashing Prince Eric; Ella Flumignan’s perfectly plucky Flounder is a major highlight; Jonah Hiatt’s high flying Scuttle has impeccable comedic timing (pay special attention to the Act 2 opener “Positoovity”). There’s Brian Jones’ towering King Triton, Jeffrey King’s rambunctious and hilarious Chef Louis, John Lamb’s wry Grimsby, and finally Anjewel Lenoir (who pulls double duties as the hair/makeup/wig designer) brings the house down as the nefarious sea witch Ursula.
They are buoyed by a rich entourage of prominent Croswell staples who make up everything from jellyfish, sea horses, to mermaids and crewmates aboard Eric’s ship. Nowak stages the action with a brisk agility, ensuring the scene transitions run smooth, and the pace never feels stunted. In the end, it more than lives up the Disney namesake and should be on every local family’s radar this holiday season. I pray for the poor unfortunate souls who miss it.
The Croswell’s production of THE LITTLE MERMAID runs through December 3rd. To purchase tickets and see showtimes. Click here.