“The Little Mermaid” dazzles and delights

I was six years old when Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out in movie theaters (no math, please). And while I’ve never been a mermaid obsessive – save for my Blankie Tail – I can clearly remember the effect the movie had on my childhood, whether it was perfecting the hair flip Ariel demonstrates on that rock or belting “Part of Your World” into various hair brushes and kitchen utensils.

If You Go

So even though it’s been some time since I’ve harmonized to Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s iconic songs, those feelings came right back to me as I sat in the audience of The Paramount Theatre’s excellent production of The Little Mermaid. The venue might be different, but I still found myself longing to be part of that technicolored, larger-than-life, under-the sea world.

With a 2+ hour runtime, the stage version benefits from the addition of new songs, including Prince Eric’s love ballad “One Step Closer,” the Supremes-esque “She’s In Love” (performed by the scene-stealing Mersisters) and “Positoovity,” a tap-dancing extravaganza that left me awed.

The musical also beefs up a few characters’ backstories, helpfully taking Prince Eric from simply “the cutest Disney prince” to a reluctant monarch who wants to find a woman to share the sea (and his life) with, and the deliciously malicious Ursula as the disrespected sister of regal King Triton.

While there are no weak links in the cast – Kari Yancy and Devin Desantis are flawless as the star-crossed lovers at the heart of the tale – audience applause clearly indicated that the standouts were Christina Hall as the devilish sea witch and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as Sebastian, the crab-turned-chaperone who headlines both “Kiss the Girl” and epically staged “Under the Sea.” (I also was delighted by George Keating’s turn as Chef Louis.)

The staging is truly what sets this production apart, from the incredibly imaginative choreography to the way it re-creates some seminal moments from the animated movie (I won’t spoil the magic). And the physicality of the actors is remarkable, as they carry themselves in a way that truly makes you feel like you’re under the ocean’s waves.

I was also impressed by the use of puppets, with the actors/puppeteers dressed as the characters. This effect was carried out to perfection by club kid electric eels Flotsam and Jetsam (Adam Fane and John Adam Keating), spoonerism-prone gull Scuttle (Michael Ehlers) and the crushing-on-Ariel Flounder (Murphy Byrne, alternating with Ricky Falbo), not to mention the irresistible Sebastian.

All in all, The Little Mermaid continues Paramount Theatre’s tradition of staging Broadway classics at the same level of larger, more lauded theaters. I came away from the show feeling six-year-old all over again, just looking for a hair brush or slotted spoon to stage a mini-concert. I have a feeling you – and your little princes and princesses – will be just as swept away.

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