Editor's Note: The following was written by member serenityandroses. She attended the opening night of the new musical 'The Little Mermaid' which started previews in Denver this week. She was kind enough to record her thoughts for our dear readers. Enjoy!
When I heard The Little Mermaid was being made into a musical, I was excited and a little apprehensive. I didnít want the remarkable movie to be butchered by Disney and their theatrical team. With Beauty and the Beast and Lion King being such successes, I was hopeful that the same would happen with my favorite Disney classic.
And when I heard it was premiering in Denver before it went to Broadway, I was so ecstatic that I was moved to tears. Could this be a dream come true? A miracle for a miracle? I thought so, at least. It was fate that I was to see the Disney show before half of the country, and more so a blessing that I got tickets for the official first viewing of the show for an audience.
In the heart of downtown Denver, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House has been recently refurbished, with The Little Mermaid being the first show there since the remodel, and was a good choice for the premiere. The large house, with 4 levels and seats raised to allow viewing over the digital readers that lay on each seat back, wasnít fully packed at the beginning. As the small crowd of mostly families with small children gathered outside, large posters hung overhead.
Disney was in the air as children, dressed as Ariel, were interviewed by a Denver Post reporter not allowed to see the show. At the door, I met a man whoíd come all the way from Houston, Texas to see the show. Heíd spent over 500 dollars to see the show on the opening night, and enjoyed floor level seats and waiting for the cast afterwards. Another family was off to Disneyland the next day, members of Mice Chat as well who were looking forward to the show as much as I was. We chatted for a few moments, but only after 5 minutes of being inside, the fire alarm proceeded to go off.
For the next 20 minutes.
Iíve learned the hard way that if you donít purchase your goods before the show, you wait for much longer then you ever would have if youíd just waited in the small line beforehand. The price list was reasonable, but the goods were limited. A poster for 15, the childís tee for 20, an adult tee for 25, the adult polo for 40, the Original Cast Recording pre-ordered for 25, a very cute pin for 5, a glass keychain for 10, a beaded keychain for 15, and a hat for 20. I got the majority of the list above and with my goods in hand, costing me 80 bucks; I headed to the top level to take my seat.
Walking in, the backdrop was black with blue sea creatures. The theatre was slow to fill, but once it did, it was filled to the brim by 7:55. Like all Broadway shows, it started 10 minutes late. But to make up for it, Tom Schumacher introduced the show. He told the audience, ďYou are lucky to be here. You might even see a stagehand. And youíll know that itís a stagehand from the obvious lack of fin.Ē He also warned that if something was to completely go wrong and they stopped the show to enjoy it, since we would hardly say thatíd weíd been able to see that and that show would start up again in a few moments. He left the stage, and only 5 minutes later, the overture began. The melody of Part of Your World, Human Stuff, Kiss the Girl, If Only, Under the Sea, then ended with Part of Your World once more, was a hit with the audience.
The coolest effect of the whole show was the boat that came from above the stage, making the above the ocean/below the ocean effect more believable. The way the ship swayed was only slightly disturbing, with two halves of the bottom of the ship rotating back and forth, making it a little hard to picture that it was a ship. Fortunately, Fathoms Belowmade a great distraction. Eric, played by the incredibly hot and talented Sean Palmer, was a little bit of the whiney boy who wants to do nothing but sail all day, even though his father was dying on land. The incredible Jonathan Freeman, who we all know and love as Jafar, was Grimsby, who needed to ďheave hoĒ himself. Eric hears Arielís voice and demands that they follow the voice, causing the ship to rise and take you into the world below.
Although it would have been super cool to see water on the stage, 3M created a plastic material that reflected the light and created the effect of water and waves in the show. And the swimming effect; Heelies worn by all fish and mermaid-alike. Iím sure that once they do the show enough, the simple effect will be perfected so itís not so easy to tell what the trick is. Daughter of Triton was a very cute number, and of course, stared the crab we all know and love, Sebastian, played by Tituss Burgess. Donned in a red tux with tails and a top hat with bobble eyes, the crustacean kept the mood light and conducted the pit orchestra through the celebratory song by Tritonís daughters. Having cast ĎAunt Ursulaí out of the kingdom, the new ruler, played by Norm Lewis, dons two fins in this first underwater number. The costumes for the mermaids were very pretty, with long skirts with tails attached. Once again, the swimming effect was best viewed from the floor of the theatre, since from above you could see both the dress bottom and the tail.
And finally, you get to meet Ariel, played by Denver Native Sierra Boggess. At first, I was very nervous that the former Christine would not be able to play a young and naÔve teenager, but wow, was I ever proven wrong. She sounded so much like the Ariel known and loved by all that it was almost as if she was channeling Jodi Benson the whole show. She was incredible at the role, a Susan Egan to Belle or a Heather Headley to Nala. Her opening solo, The World Above, was a great number for her voice. The only disappointing thing about this scene was seeing Flounderís simple and very cheaply made costume. It looked like they ran out of money and asked the kids who play the small side kick to use some blue paint on a yellow shirt and call it good. I will admit, however, that his blue mohawk was adorable. And Human Stuff was beyond funny, and the lyrics were changed slightly, and the crazy outfit the seagulls put Ariel in guaranteed that she would fit right in.
Next we see Ursula, played by the remarkable Sherie Rene Scott, and her two sidekicks, Flotsam and Jetsam. And, wow, what an entrance. Even though she was rolled in, it was still powerful. The Good Times Back was a fantastic number that was almost as good as Wasting Away, which was one of my favorite additions. It was humorous, and I almost was in shock as to how well she plotted everything out. The funniest part of this number was the tentacle kick line, since Scottís feet were completely unusable for that purpose. Her dress was beautiful with, what seemed to be, no expense spared. The six tentacles were almost like a cape that she would bring around in front of her. Very cool number.
The transitions were a little hairy, but the mermaid ball in between these two scenes was very cute. Oh, and one of the cooler props was a revolving sun, so if you didnít know whether or not she was on land or sea, the sun hanging over the stage was a giveaway. Anyways, Triton yells at Ariel for missing the show and Flounder blabs that she was on the surface. Triton tells her that as long as Ariel is under his reef she would obey his rules. The amount of ocean puns was ridiculous, but to be expected from Disney in my opinion. Then Ariel sung Part of Your World. And I was speechless. Her voice was so perfect and young, really portraying Ariel the way she was meant to be played. It was nice to hear how many little kids were singing along with the songs from the movie. The dancing from all on Heelies was similar to that of the Disney on Ice stars.
So Ariel sees a ship and runs/skates to the surface to see the ship, which hangs above her, crew and all. My favorite effect of the whole show was Ericís drowning. Even thought he was on strings and falling, it was all slow motion and fluid, like water was actually pulling him under, and very awesome to watch. And one moment he was hanging in the center of the stages, and the next he was on the front of the stage wrapped in seaweed. And the song reprise was amazing, and so much emotion was conveyed in the short song to Eric. She was more than just in awe about the man in front of her; it was god worship in every way. Ariel gets away and hides behind the rock on the land, then once Eric leaves she sings the last refrain, in a different key, which was a better choice for Sierra. It was deeper and clearer than the rest of her songs.
Alright, now you get to one of the best songs in the show, Sheís in Love. Honestly, I was a little iffy about this piece in the beginning. It had a great fiftyís beat, but I wasnít sure about the lyrics. It wasnít until J.J. Singleton joined in a Flounder. He reminded me a little of Michael Jackson at first, his actual black years, just in his voice and his adorableness. He was so powerful, and this was his only song! That was an absolute travesty there. Give the boy another song. I donít care what itís about, but give him something more than this classic do-wop song. Heís almost too good for just one song. And he got the best line of the show, ďI didnít know it was love in the second chorus!Ē
We once again return to the surface where Eric sings Her Voice. To me, he did a fantastic job on this song. The stage was way to plain for my taste. Although you knew it was on the beach, I think that they could have done something a little more to let you know that was where he was. Lighting isnít enough most times on the stage when youíre trying to tell the story to a child as well. The plot changes here as well, with Grimsby suggesting a ball to let the ladies sing for his heart. Eric adores the idea and continues to sing about how much he adores the voice he heard at sea. Once again, we head under the sea. Oh! And nothing made me happier than an angst-y Eric.
Then Triton comes in and wonders who Ariel likes, and Sebastian blows the secret and Triton goes off to her grotto. Well, The World Above reprise was such a let-down. I hated the song from the beginning, but to see it still in there just to give Triton a song? CHANGE IT PLEASE! It wasnít good, and didnít do anything for his range at all. Arielís all depressed, so Sebastian tries to make up for his mistakes with Ariel by serenading her with Under the Sea. Now I enjoyed this song. It was amazing, but it didnít have enough glitter to it. With I Just Canít Wait to Be King, you needed the plain stage because it was Sambaís imagination. But this song needs a more decorative stage. It so deterred from the song by using a boring stage.
Ariel then ran away, running into the eels who sing Sweet Child, another good villain song that led into Poor Unfortunate Souls, which was absolutely dominated by Sherrie Rene Scott. They changed it into a different key more suitable for her range. To say that she wouldnít be a good Ursula would be like telling Sebastian that he wasnít a crab. The song was phenomenal, and the puns were a plenty, with Ďanother squid pro quoí, and disusing the legal field, ĎLawyers, donít you just love them?í when talking as to the small print on the contract. The song was great, and so was the transformation from mermaid to human. Like Ericís drowning, she moved up, losing the fins as she landed at the end of the stages, standing up and proclaiming her new form as the curtain fell.
After intermission, you saw Positivist, a super funny song with Scuttle showing Ariel how to walk like a seagull. I loved the tap dancing gulls, and this number was one of the best choreographed that was in the whole show. This is a song that will last through the run. I know it will make the OBC recording, and if it doesnítÖ well then Iíll be mad. And Sierra did a great job of part falls and stumbles. Eric finds Ariel being attacked by the seagulls and shoos them away, FINALLY MEETING ARIEL! It was so cute, and I was just going crazy! He picked her up and took her back to the castle.
Then Carlotta and the girls bathe Ariel, in which she sings Beyond My Wildest Dreams. The song was good, but it didnít happen where I thought it would. I pictured it happening in the village, maybe something similar to Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast'. She didnít really see anything incredible in the castle that would have made her want to sing. I mean, yes she was here for the first time, and Carlotta did want to know what was going on in Arielís head, but still, the song felt a little misplaced to me. Oh, and I hated her dress here. The pink dress Ariel wears in the movie is beautiful and the plain little thing she wore was cute, but not a Disney Theatrical dress. Have you seen Belleís dress? It was beautiful, and Ariel got nothing but a simple little pink frock. I liked it, but I didnít think it did the part justice. I really hope that they make her dress better for the Broadway version.
Les Poisson was such a funny number, a little reminiscent of Be Our Guest. I thought it was a little bit of an ĎOh, weíve seen this before,í but I really enjoyed how the piece ended, with the 70s chase scene around the stage and what not. It was super cute, with Eric leading Ariel across the stage. After this little scene, my favorite song was introduced. It was hard to pick up the name, but it was about dancing to tell your feelings. Now, if you know my story, you would see why this song hit so close to home for me. Not being able to talk for as long as I could, it was hard to get people to realize what I was trying to say. It was the perfect song for the show, and a great solo for Eric. This was one of those songs that really helped move the story along. Believing that three days was all they needed was more believable with this song. I cried after this song was done, and I think every one sitting around me thought I was crazy.
The cute scene in the bedroom with Ariel and Sebastian that happened in the movie happened on stage as well. It was cute, cutting then to Triton asking Flounder if he knows where his daughter is. Then it goes to Ursula and the eels plotting a little more. After that, you get Kiss the Girl. And wow, what a great scene. Everything was so well done with this scene. My only criticism would have been to do something more with the background. Once again, simple colors can only do you so much good. Even just to add some stars here would have been better then the blank back. What Instead of being knocked over, the boat was shocked by the eels, and this effect was a little late. But other than that, the scene really was cool.
If Only was the next scene with Ariel on the bed and Eric on the ship hanging from the ceiling. This duet really was incredible, but to add Sebastian to it, along with Triton, only added to the splendor of the song. I enjoyed it a lot, but Sierra kind of was drowned out in this song. Either turn up or turn down the mics. She has a great voice; you just couldnít hear her in this song. And for once, the simple stage really worked for this song. Anything fancy would have deterred from it. From here the songs blurred a little, and I was pretty disappointed with where the plot went. It was great that Eric held the contest to see if he could find the voice, but to have Ariel try to sing and to have him pick her, regardless? Ursula just walked in later, flooding the castle. But why not have her as one of the girls? Her hair? Maybe her dress was too much to get her out of? I think that itís a silly ending that made little sense. Vanessa was a fantastic woman to hate! Bring her back! And All Good Things Must End should have been kept, but the lyrics changed a little bit. I donít know, I think the plot was silly at the end. I didnít like how it ended.
Oh, and Arielís wedding dress made me mad too. It was short, and yes it had the teal details, but it just wasnít very bride like. And I know it was part of her appeal because she loved the ocean, but really? GIVE HER THE GLAM? Did we just run out of time? Was this the best you could do? Come on! Belle is no longer on Broadway, so let Ariel be the beauty queen of Disney.
All in all, Iíd give the show about a 6. With improvement, the show will be a ten. But until they fix the little bit of wardrobe issues, the show will only be mediocre. Iíd hate to see the show leave Broadway because it didnít fix the dumb things. Ariel should get to overpower Ursula and get her voice back as well. For her to just lose her voice, kiss Eric and get it back? That was dumb. Ariel really didnít over come anything, but breaking the shell? Gah! Now that youíve got time to redo some of these quickly planned ideas, do it. You can change what youíve done, and please do so!
So, Iíve ranted quite a bit. But hopefully you get a good idea of what the show is like now. Iím going to do the same for the gala, so hopefully weíll see some changes between then and now.