Disney’s The Little Mermaid | The Muny

I’ve never seen a costume as memorable or innovative as Ursula’s!

Although it’s been nearly three decades since Disney’s animated classic The Little Mermaid was released, mermaids—like unicorns—are trendier than ever! Of course, does that really come as any surprise? Mermaids are and always will be mesmerizing!

Yet when we meet Ariel (Emma Degerstedt), the title character of The Muny’s second production of the year, she’s pretty much over it. To her, the flashy fin she was born with merely restricts her freedom, and she’d do just about anything to trade it in for a pair of legs. Her desperation to walk and dance beside the humans she admires only intensifies when she sets eyes on the oh-so-studly Prince Eric (Jason Gotay). Her dad, who just so happens to be King Triton (Jerry Dixon), has several daughters, but Ariel is his baby girl so naturally he’s frustrated by her disobedience. His crab servant Sebastian (James T. Lane) tries to keep an eye on Ariel, as does her fish friend Flounder (Spencer Jones), but when she learns her father’s sister, Ursula (Emily Skinner), can grant her wish, she’s willing to overlook her aunt’s villainous persona. Like I said before, Ariel is willing to do anything to “be where the people are.”  

But you probably knew all of this already, didn’t you? Chances are what you’re really wondering is the same thing I was when I went into this show: How in the world can it successfully be translated to the stage? As Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson notes in the show’s playbill, it requires quite a bit of imagination on your part as an audience member.

The two greatest accomplishments of this show are Ursula’s costume and the performance of “Under the Sea.” Of all the theatre productions I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, I’ve never seen a costume as memorable or innovative as Ursula’s. I’m going to withhold the dazzling details (because I want you to experience it for yourself), but let’s just say multiple people are responsible for making this magic happen. “Under the Sea” is the show’s second greatest surprise because it’s during this number that you’ll realize just how large and diverse this cast truly is! The ocean is a big place and this performance provides a glimpse at the collection of sea creatures swimming about in a small sliver of it. The moment became even more touching when I noticed that two of the members included in this sea squad were in wheelchairs. 

Degerstedt and Gotay look like a Disney couple—but even more importantly, they sound like one! Degerstedt is especially deserving of praise. She has to rely on body language alone for quite a bit of the production, a challenging transition that she executes exceptionally well. Lane’s portrayal of Sebastian was also on-target, and it was primarily he and Jeffrey Schecter, as Scuttle the seagull, who had the crowd cracking up throughout the show.

Overall, this production will meet your expectations for a night of family friendly entertainment. The vocals, choreography, puppeteering, costuming and chemistry are all enchanting, and in the words of Sebastian, “what more is you lookin’ for?” | Megan Washausen Randall

Disney’s The Little Mermaid runs through June 29. For ticket information, visit https://muny.org/.

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