Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Frothy, Tuneful “Little Mermaid”at Candlelight Pavilion
The entire idea of taking the Disney film (or the Hans Christian Andersen original story) of “The Little Mermaid” and putting it on the stage creates a challenge. Disney did it themselves, taking the show to Broadway where it ran for over 2 years. Transferring that to a smaller, more intimate setting brings new problems to solve, quite aside from finding singer-performers who are up to the characters most audience members are already very familiar with.
At Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont, it is made to look easy for the most part. The use of “heelies” to give underwater characters a fluid movement works as it did in the original (as opposed to the odd flapping required of some recent revivals), the voices are strong and the energy high. Director John Lalonde knows how to use the small Candlelight stage to the fullest, and has assembled a cast both convincing and entertainingly quirky.
The Disney version of the story is well known. Ariel, the youngest daughter of Triton, king of the ocean depths, has become fascinated with the world which exists outside their watery universe. This only intensifies as her father destroys her collection of “otherworldly” things, and she ends up rescuing a young Prince Eric, thrown off of his ship in a storm.
Ariel trades her voice to her evil witch of an aunt, Ursula, for a pair of legs so she can go after Eric, with the understanding that she must be kissed by the prince within a short time frame to avoid Ursula owning her, body and soul. Ariel’s friends Sebastian the crab, Scuttle the seagull, and Flounder the fish do what they can to help, as Ursula’s own sidekicks plot the opposite.
Erin Dubreuil makes a sweet and innocent Ariel, singing beautifully and absolutely bursting with earnest naivete. Tyler Matthew Burk, as Prince Eric, gives him the right combination of frustration and wistful yearning for simplicity necessary for the piece to work. Donovan Wright brings a touching warmth to Triton.
But, of course, it is the character parts which get to have the most fun. Bob Bell grumps appropriately as Eric’s frustrated tutor. Ryan Watson manages to make Flounder sound, if not look, as childlike as needed, and Alex Allen flaps about with abandon as Scuttle. In a choice which works extremely well, Cody Bianchi makes a truly villainous Ursula, aided by the puppeteers Nicholas Alexander and Anthony Vaca, playing her evil eel henchmen.
In the small but vital part of Chef Louis, cooking up seafood for Eric’s dinner, Andrew Metzger displays his comic chops. Still, the real star of the piece is, as always happens, Sebastian, here given great character by Desmond Clark. Even as adapted for Broadway, he has the two best songs in the show, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” Clark and a truly fine ensemble do a fine job with both.
Kudos to choreographer Chelsea Morgan Stock for movement and dance which define the spaces in which the characters operate. Praise also to Julie Lamoureaux, who as musical director is tasked with creating, in even the show’s more complex pieces, a sound reminiscent of the film, yet doing so for an ensemble who will perform the songs without benefit of a conductor. It all works.
One must remember that this “Little Mermaid” simplifies some of the darker moments of even the film version, and definitely of the original short story. Expect tunefulness, a certain amount of froth, and a lot of charm which is suitable for the entire family. All this, and a good meal as well, at what is now the only remaining dinner theater in the greater Los Angeles area.
What: “The Little Mermaid” When: through September 1, doors open for dinner 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, and 11 a.m. for lunch Saturdays and Sundays. Where: The Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont. How Much: $63-$78 adults, $30-$35 children 12 and under Info: (909) 626-1254, ext. 1 or http://www.candlelightpavilion.com