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5 reasons to go see ‘Little Mermaid’ if you’re a kid or grown-up

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
By: Russell Florence Jr. - Contributing Writer

There’s ample time to venture “under the sea” as the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series offers a special Star Attractions presentation of Pittsburgh CLO and Kansas City Starlight Theatre’s vibrantly entertaining production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” through Sunday, Aug. 13 at the Schuster Center.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale and the 1989 Academy Award-winning animated film, “The Little Mermaid” is a whimsical account of the beautiful mermaid princess Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, who longs to leave her ocean home and join the human world above, ultimately falling in love with handsome Prince Eric. However, a pivotal proposition from wicked sea witch Ursula threatens to destroy Ariel’s happiness.

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Here are five reasons why you should see this family-friendly crowd-pleaser.

1. A STORY WORTH ADMIRING

As Ariel vows to seek a life of her own in spite of adversity, her journey remains relatable, empowering and universal with a few pointed messages about tolerance in the process. After all, she fittingly reminds King Triton, “You can’t blame all humans for a few wicked ones.” “We are reaching out to a whole new generation of musical theater lovers,” said Eric Kunze who plays Prince Eric. “A good amount of our audience consists of young children who perhaps are seeing their first theatrical experience. Hopefully, we are inspiring them. This is a beautifully written show, especially musically.”

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2. DEEPER SUBTEXT FOR ADULTS

Kunze points out an intriguing commonality in the world of Disney: many of its main characters come from single-parent homes and desire acceptance. “The underlying themes of the show are geared toward adults,” he explained. “King Triton is raising his daughters alone and is having a difficult time letting Ariel go. But the show also (deals) with characters who are trying to fit in and are feeling out of place in the world. They are trying to find where they belong. But everybody has their own journey, their own special path. And if you do feel out of your skin – embrace it.”

3. WELL-DEFINED PORTRAYALS

Director Glenn Casale, working with a libretto by Doug Wright, ensures the show isn’t merely a carbon copy of the film or full of one-dimensional characterizations. In fact, there is a renewed sense of imaginative discovery and fierce determination within Ariel primarily thanks to Diana Huey’s wonderfully lyric-driven rendition of “Part of Your World.” Jennifer Allen’s witty comedic timing is also a plus as she commands attention as Ursula. “The show is so smartly written so we really don’t have to overplay anything,” Kunze noted. “It’s all in the script. We just have to be honest and tell the story clearly as best we can without being cartoon-like.”

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4. NEW SONGS BROADEN SCOPE

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s original score includes such favorites as “Kiss the Girl,” “Les Poissons” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” but Menken wrote several new tunes with lyricist Glenn Slater to broaden the story’s scope for the stage. “If Only,” a gorgeous quartet for Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian and King Triton, is a particular Act 2 highlight offering varying perspectives on hope and love as each character faces an emotional crossroads. “When the four threads come together it is a gorgeous moment,” Kunze said. “It’s one of my favorite songs in the show.”

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5. HIGH-FLYING SPECTACLE

The production marvelously conjures underwater fancifulness with an array of colorfully elaborate sets and costumes, outstanding lighting design stretching beyond the proscenium, and nifty flying sequences choreographed by the legendary Paul Rubin (who has choreographed over 300 productions of “Peter Pan”) specifically for Ariel, King Triton and Ariel’s seagull buddy Scuttle. “This is a full-scale Broadway production with mind-blowing technical aspects,” Kunze said. “There’s definitely some pizzazz.”

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