The Little Mermaid’s original theatrical release in 1989 was the beginning of the animated renaissance of Disney Animation which led to multiple hit musicals including The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. In 2007, after almost 20 years after its release, Disney finally brought the ocean to life on Broadway. Now in 2012, Music Circus is the only location stateside this summer given the rights to perform this stage adaptation, and it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving team. From the moment the lights in the theater go down, the familiar swells of music from the film take you back to your childhood and a new vision of the familiar story comes to life before your eyes.
Jessica Grové as Ariel and the ensemble mermaids in the Music Circus production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Wells Fargo Pavilion July 10-22. Photo by Charr Crail.
Jessica Grové (Ariel) plays the sweet and naive teenager wanting to explore the forbidden land above the surface. Her voice will put a smile on your face from beginning to end as the youthful refrains of songs like “Part of Your World” fill the theater. Eric Kunze (Prince Eric) is the young royal looking for more than just an arranged marriage. His dashing demeanor and vocals during “Her Voice” and “One Step Closer” exude the right amount of passion for someone looking for love. Vicki Lewis (Ursula) returns to Sacramento to grace us with her peformance as the wicked sea witch. Her take on the character is equal parts gusto, humor and pure evil. The new song “Daddy’s Little Angel” reveals that she basically killed off her entire family in order to obtain total control of the ocean, however King Triton still stands in her way. Jack Doyle (Scuttle) steals the show with his seagull friends during “Positoovity,” a tap number sung to Ariel to lift her spirits after her human legs have trouble keeping her balance. Kevin Smith Kirkwood (Sebastian) was a definite highlight of the evening and it seems the loud cheers from those in attendance at the bows agreed. His amazing high notes accented crowd pleasers “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl”, and he provides plenty of comic relief as the king’s bodyguard and watchdog for his unruly daughter.
Vicki Lewis as Ursula and Scott Leiendecker as Flotsam in the Music Circus production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Wells Fargo Pavilion July 10-22. Photo by Charr Crail.
The costumes in this show are definitely characters in their own right. Some of them have been brought over from the Broadway production, but plenty of new ones have also been created. Instead of trying to create Disneyland-esque costumes for the animal characters, a more anthropomorphized look for each cast member has been designed. Henry Hodges’ (Flounder) hip guppy costume looks like something a teen would’ve designed and he evens flies through the theatre in a custom “wave board” to simulate swimming. Sebastian’s wardrobe is befitting of a concert conductor with a sleek tails at the back and claws at the hands and even Scuttle wears a vest adorned with findings from along the shore. The performers in “Under the Sea” create an underwater Vegas show-stopper with the aisles and stage filled with amazing sea creatures big and small.
Eric Gunhus as Chef Louis and Kevin Smith Kirkwood as Sebastian in the Music Circus production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Wells Fargo Pavilion July 10-22. Photo by Charr Crail.
All your favorite songs from the film are presented here (including the hilarious “Les Poissons” sung by Eric Gunhus as Chef Louis) with some new ones sprinkled in. The “If Only” quartet with Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and King Triton (Merwin Foard) is masterfully executed by the cast in a harmonious moment showcasing four perspectives on an uncertain situation. Our only quibble with the show is that one of our favorite songs from Broadway, “I Want the Good Times Back” was cut from the Sacramento premiere. While irreverent and funny, it may have softened Ursula too much, so a new song to show her vile nature was created.
Kevin Smith Kirkwood as Sebastian and the ensemble in the Music Circus production of “The Little Mermaid” at the Wells Fargo Pavilion July 10-22. Photo by Charr Crail.
We’ve noticed at each Disney show brought to Sacramento (including last season’s Mary Poppins) that so many children are in the audience. The Little Mermaid is a perfect primer for parents wanting to start bringing the youngest family members along to shows and young students wanting to go into performing arts will be enthralled and inspired. The visuals and effects will keep all ages glued to their seats. Glenn Casale and the Music Circus creative heads have put all the ingredients in a pot with their new script and new music by Alan Menken to serve this production of The Little Mermaid in the round up as a feast for the eyes and ears. Buy your tickets now as this two week run is sure to sell out fast!