Wednesday, May 27, 2015

theatre review - DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID - Arizona Broadway Theatre - May 22, 2015

Cassandra Norville Klaphake
"...The Little Mermaid...bowed on Broadway 2008. Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona professional premiere of the musical in a big, splashy, colorful production with a talented cast and impressive creative elements....includes all of the toe-tapping film songs plus about ten new ones, with lyrics for the new songs by Glenn Slater, some of which are quite good. ...ABT's production is a family focused one, with director Kiel Klaphake joined by his wife Cassandra Norville Klaphake as Ursula and their two sons (along with two other boys) alternating in the role of Flounder. All do well with their respective contributions, especially Cassandra, who seems to relish with glee the part of the evil witch with the evil ways. Her big, brassy, and powerful voice knocks Ursula's songs to the back of the auditorium and beyond. She's having a blast playing this part and the audience on opening night appeared to have just as much fun watching her....As Ariel, Jill-Christine Wiley is very good, giving the part lovely shades of wonder, confusion, and excitement which combine to make Ariel's level of fascination with the human world realistic. She also has a lovely voice, adding plenty of warmth to her songs...Klaphake's direction allows for the fun, bright, and comical moments to be enjoyable, yet also allows for the more serious parts of the musical that deal with parental fears of losing their child to have resonance. He also never lets the more dark moments in the show that deal with Ursula ever approach true evil, making the show very family friendly. Kurtis W. Overby's choreography never stops in providing varied and inventive movement, creating numerous showstoppers, several of which include about a dozen youth ensemble members. Creative elements are full of color...beautiful costume designs, which include some stunning Day-Glo fish designs for "Under the Sea." Paul A. Black's set and lighting designs feature lovely coral reefs and also multiple shades of aquamarine, which combine to portray magical and beautiful underwater imagery. ...While the stage version of The Little Mermaid is a fairly by the numbers re-telling of the animated film, and some of the new songs written for the stage version pale in comparison to the film songs, it is still a fun, engaging show. With a powerhouse comical performance from Norville Klaphake as Ursula and a sweet and engaging one from Wiley as Ariel, and featuring clear direction and colorful, imaginative creative designs, the Arizona Broadway Theatre production is a family friendly gem." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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