Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ swims its way into your heart

JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 7/11/17

From the very first moment that Hans Christian Andersen’s title character Ariel bobbed to the surface in this glittering production at the Forestburgh Playhouse, I was hooked. Based on both the …

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Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ swims its way into your heart

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From the very first moment that Hans Christian Andersen’s title character Ariel bobbed to the surface in this glittering production at the Forestburgh Playhouse, I was hooked. Based on both the original fairy tale and the 1989 Disney film—which enhanced the story with a memorable score by Alan Menken and terribly clever lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glen Slater—the animated movie was box-office gold and brought the story to life for new generations. And now? It’s live on stage at the playhouse and just plain spectacular!

Director Franklin Trapp has pulled out all the stops for this show, surrounding himself with an amazing cast and crew, all of whom help elevate this production to a level heretofore unseen at the playhouse. Lenny Daniels’ delightful choreography, Andy Hudson’s flawless musical direction (best pit band ever!) and Ashleigh Poteat’s stunning, original costumes (with an assist by designer Meaghan Carlo) are beautifully lit by Aaron Porter. Mermaids cavort beneath the water and sailors carouse on German Cardenas’ gorgeous sets, while bubbles rise and gulls fly overhead—thanks to sound designer Matt Birchmeier’s imaginative integration of audio.

Let’s be perfectly clear here: this is not just a show for the little ones. Oh, sure, the kids will adore it, but adults were on their feet more than once during the performance as the resident company of actors knocked each and every musical number out of the water. As the story unfolds, Ariel (Ella Mora) wishes to walk among the humans, and Mora’s lyric vocals were positively magical. She is the sheer embodiment of the Little Mermaid, and her performance sparkles and shines. As the prince (the smooth-voiced Ian Laudano) and his aide (Scott Evans, who never disappoints) scour the seven seas in search of Ariel, the audience is treated to scenes above and beneath the waves, where they encounter King Triton (the impressive Leland Burnett), Flounder (the adorable Joe Sullivan), Scuttle (the hilarious Brandon Walters) and Chef Louis (the multi-talented Steven Telsey).

The musical version of this tale has been around long enough for a few of the songs to be quite familiar, but as Sebastian, the crab, Chaz Rose and his chorus of sea creatures breathe new life into one of several show-stopping numbers (like “Under The Sea”). Rose’s performance is a delight, and he doubles down in Act 2 with “Kiss The Girl,” a stunning visual treat that floats with effervescence.

No good fairy tale is worth its salt without a villain, and "The Little Mermaid" delivers that concept in spades with Ursula the Sea Witch (Christina Stroup), aided and abetted by her henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam (Ben Sears and Julio Ray). But it is Stroup who is electrifying here, as she interprets the evil Ursula  with such zeal and wicked glee that she brings down the house every time she appears. Stroup’s powerhouse vocal prowess (with acting chops to match) reminds the audience why the Forestburgh Playhouse has been dubbed “Broadway in the Catskills” for more than 70 years. If we are very, very lucky, we will see her trod the boards again at the playhouse. Nothin’ fishy about it—Christina Stroup is a star.

For tickets and information, call the box office at 845/794-1194 or visit www.FBPlayhouse.org.

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