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REVIEW: "The Little Mermaid" presented by OKC Broadway

Steve Wilson
Jennifer Allen, Brandon Roach, and Frederick Hagreen in Disney's "The Little Mermaid".
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In order to squeeze a few more clams out of a popular product, Disney developed a stage adaptation of its popular 1989 animated picture, The Little Mermaid. We will have two productions of this musical this season, the present one playing as part of OKC Broadway’s series and Pollard Theatre Company’s in 2018. Why we would want to have two productions of The Little Mermaid in one season is beyond me. The current production doesn’t answer why we would want to have even one.

Don’t get me wrong. The OKC Broadway presentation, now at the Thelma Gaylord, has all the usual Disney slickness. It was created by Pittsburgh CLO and Kansas City Starlight, reputable theater companies, and is now touring.

The show is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney motion picture. As with the film, Alan Menken wrote the music, and lyrics are by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater. The pun-sprinkled book is by Doug Wright (yes, the author of the play I Am My Own Wife, believe it or not). Glenn Casale adapted and directed this production, which differs slightly from the 2007 Broadway version.

The story and characters pretty much follow the film. King Triton, ruler of the sea, forbids his mermaid daughter Ariel to swim near the ocean’s surface, where humans lurk with their traps and harpoons. But the teenager longs to be with people, so she makes a Faustian bargain that replaces her fins with legs.

So how do you adapt an animated motion picture that takes place largely underwater to the stage? With mixed results. Mermaids and other sea creatures “swim” by the use of flying, scrims and lighting. The real challenge comes in costuming the mermaids. “Fins” are cloth attachments to floor-length, one-piece costumes. You can decide for yourself whether this works.

The cast does a fine job. The appealing and strong-voiced Diana Huey plays Ariel. As Prince Eric, the appropriately named Eric Kunze is a fine actor and singer but looks way too old to need a guardian. This Ariel and Prince Eric relationship may not be a May-December romance, but they’re a definite May-October one.

The score is old-school musical theater. It begins with a full-length overture that excerpts tunes from the show and ends in a full cadence followed by audience applause. If only the conductor would turn around and take a bow. It’s hard to resist toe tapping when crustacean Sabastian (audience favorite Melvin Abston) sings the jaunty “Under the Sea.”

This is no skimpy touring musical. It has about a 14-piece pit orchestra, fully realized scenery with numerous changes and elaborate costumes, some of which create special effects.

So, if Disneyfied fairy tales are your thing, this is a musical for you. If they’re not, what does this show have to offer for some of your hard-earned clams? Tap-dancing seagulls.

The Little Mermaid OKC Broadway
Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 7:30pm to Sunday, September 10th, 2017 7:00pm
OKC Broadway
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Prices from: $38.00

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Larry Laneer

Larry Laneer has reviewed theater for...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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