I often find myself doing things that I might not have necessarily pursued if not for being invited to review them for this site. Much to my surprise, this had led to me being introduced to many new things that I have thoroughly enjoyed, and new passions that I’ve enthusiastically embraced. Over the last two years, for example, I have come to love theater – especially when presented at Dr. Phillips Center. Of all the shows I’ve enjoyed there, The Little Mermaid was easily one of my most anticipated. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I left disappointed and underwhelmed.
Not everything that’s touched by the magic of Disney comes out smelling like a rose. This adaptation ultimately smelled more like seaweed. I suppose it has a lot to do with expectation – the expectation of a Disney-bolstered production of Broadway caliber. I confess that I sometimes get a wee bit critical over variations in adaptations from book to screen or screen to stage, etc., but I really didn’t come into this performance with that chip on my shoulder. I’ve seen this story unfold on stage at varied levels, and I never saw a version that failed to do acceptably by its means and budget… until now.
In fairness, it wasn’t all bad; and the aspects that were good were actually great! Melvin Abston and Jennifer Allen gave standout performances as Sebastian the Crab and Ursula the Sea Witch, respectively. Allen specifically earned kudos for gracefully, seamlessly handling a rough audio technical issue that struck just as her big “Poor Unfortunate Souls” moment was coming into play. Both Allen and Abston were delightful in their roles and very strong in their musical contributions, making every scene they appeared in an undeniable highlight. Coincidentally, they also had the most striking costumes – along with Ursula’s evil eel minions, Flotsam and Jetsam.