THE LITTLE MERMAID
DIRECTOR: Fred Abrahamse
CAST: Thalia Burt, Michael Wallace, Candice Van Litsenborgh, Earl Gregory, Roelof Storm, Jaco Nothnagel
VENUE: The Flipside, Baxter Theatre
UNTIL: January 5
FOR THE holidays this year, the Baxter is mounting a performance of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale on the Flipside stage.
This version of The Little Mermaid takes its cue from the Disney treatment, but doesn’t use the Ashman/Menkin songs, with all new music and lyrics from Marcel Meyer.
The mermaid princess still sells her voice for legs when she falls in love with the prince, but this stage show has a happy ever after and there’ll be no crying kids leaving this venue.
The Baxter has gone all out to create an underwater atmosphere, decorating the corridor with treasures chests, sea stars and jellyfish to get the little ones in the mood.
This is the same piece Fred Abrahamse mounted successfully earlier this year at Canal Walk, and it makes the transition to the more traditional theatre venue with relative ease.
The canned music was too small a sound for the Flipside – they either need to pump up the volume or redo the tracks with more instruments, but it was too soft during the week. The performers have lovely voices though.
Burt is sweet as the mermaid, while Wallace doesn’t have to do much as the prince other than fall for the pretty girl, but he does so in tune.
The sea witch and mentor crab steal the show. Van Litsenborgh turns this sea witch into a cabaret style singing lush, while Gregory handles the crab’s Carribbean accent and pincers with a smile in his voice.
They get around the idea of the mermaid swimming under the water with an ingenious use of a series of clothes stretched across the front of the stage to create a layered seascape. So, the mermaid and her fishy friends (like the cutest chorus of clamshells and scary eels) appear to be swimming and bobbing on the water while the humans walk on the land (which is the actual stage).
At first I kept expecting the performers to break out into the Disney music because the dialogue is similar, after all it is the same plot they’re following. But, if you give yourself over to the production the new songs come across as cute, albeit repetitive on some. When the kids start moving around in their seats, you know it’s time to move that show along.
Watching the show with a host of children I was amused by how they took every darkenening of the lights between the scenes as a cue to applaud, but when the show as over, instead of applauding they waved at the actors. After all, the actors were waving at them.
The children laughed at the jokes and didn’t get too restless, paying attention to the story and pointing out new puppet characters to each other. This is not the kind of show that calls for interaction, it is meant to be watched, so at an hour it is the perfect length for up-to-tweenies, but teenagers wouldn’t be amused at all.