By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
With temperatures topping the 90s, a trip to the sea seems just the thing. Local theatergoers don’t have to go far for that. This weekend 3B Productions is staging “Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the Musical,” based on the 1989 animated film.
This is 3B’s annual summer youth musical. It’s a great idea. Pull together talent from area high schools and give them a chance to work together and give the audience a chance to see some of the best young thespian talent in the area. Given the size of the cast, 65 in all, with its sailors, maids, cooks and all manner of sea creatures, real and imagined, the show has plenty of roles for youngsters, some maybe getting their first exposure to musical theater.
The result is a bracing sea adventure, powered by youthful energy. “The Little Mermaid,” directed by Joe Barton with musical direction by Jennifer Bollinger and choreography by Bob Marzola, is on stage at the Maumee Indoor Theatre Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The Saturday matinee will feature understudies including several members of the Horizon Youth Theatre. Tickets, which are going fast, are $15 available at: www.3Bproductions.org.
The production meets the challenge of bringing animated antics to life, and fleshing out the characters. Using the energy of live theater performed by a youthful cast as a substitute for the magic of animation, “Little Mermaid” has a spunky summer camp joy to it.
Particularly impressive is the way Andrew Nauden keeps his character Sebastian, the court composer turned a mermaid princess’ minder, from being a caricature. Sebastian has all the makings of being the show’s Jar Jar Binks, but Nauden makes us feel his character’s frustrations, and developing concern for Ariel. He’s equally good at leading the feel-good production number “Under the Sea” as he is the sensitive “Kiss the Girl.” Not surprisingly he’s already won state honors for his roles in other 3B shows and will head off to study in Ithaca College’s well respected musical theater program.
Ariel played by Joelle Stiles is a heart-strong mermaid. She’s obsessed with the land of humans and immune to the grave warnings of her father, the sea god Triton (Noah Halaoui). She’s always venturing to the surface to spy on people, and getting instruction in their ways from the bird-brained seagull Scuttle (Max Lay). Her misunderstandings add much of the humor, though those fish-out-of-water antics never get in the way of the romance. Her ignorance of people most comes out in the big song “Part of Your World” when she declares that she longs to be “where they don’t reprimand their daughters.” Somehow I always found that line a hoot.
In true fairy tale fashion, she falls in love on sight with a prince (Jonathan Chambers), who in turns falls in love with her voice. That voice, though, gets traded to the sea witch Ursula, played with oily charm by Sarah Matlow, for a pair of legs. So a mute Ariel must get Prince Eric to yield to her charms. The palace scenes add plenty of opportunities for physical comedy with the head chef (Will DuPuis), who loves to cook fish of all varieties, chasing Sebastian during a banquet scene.
Madi Wojtowicz is endearing as Ariel’s sidekick Flounder, yet another character caught between her loyalty to Ariel and Triton’s concern for his daughter’s safety. Flounder is balanced by Ursula’s comic henchmen Flotsam (Erica Harmon) and Jetsam (Bobbi Baranek). They seem to get far too much joy out of their thuggery. Somehow I suspect they’ll manage just fine even without their boss.
This being Disney, as opposed to the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, all ends well and with a kiss. The audience will end up with an enjoyable respite from the heat without have to change into bathing suits.