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'Mermaid' swims onto Music Circus stage
Disney musical runs through July 22 in Sacramento
'The Little Mermaid'
TIMES: Runs until July 22; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sundays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays.
WHERE: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
TICKETS: Start at $30
CALL: Wells Fargo Pavilion 916-557-1999 or Tickets.com at 916-766-2277.
ONLINE: Sacramento MusicCircus.com
When Disney released its animated "The Little Mermaid" movie in 1989, the high-spirited heroine Ariel became a familiar name in most households with children, especially when one of the youngsters in the house was a girl child with red hair. The family's own little Ariel would run down the halls singing "Part of Your World" — for years.
So when "The Little Mermaid" "swam" onto the Music Circus stage Tuesday night, it was a major coup for California Musical Theatre Artistic Director Glenn Casale. His connections with Disney Theatricals granted rights to the Music Circus as the only professional US theater this summer to produce "The Little Mermaid," the Disney production based on a Hans Christian Andersen story.
Under Casale's direction, "The Little Mermaid" is all about the senses — color, sound and movement. Scott Klier and Jamie Kumpf met the challenge of turning the Music Circus tent into a below-the-surface oceanic kingdom ruled by King Triton (Merwin Foard).
Teal blue plankton drape from the ceiling, and water-hued lights offer the sense of moving water reflections dancing on the stage. The actors, too, carry the moved-by-the-water effect with constant undulating torso and arm movements reminiscent of belly dance moves that are even more pronounced by the flowing appendages of some costumes.
An exasperated widower of seven girls, Foard commands his kingdom — or tries to — with his booming tenor and magic triton. It's Ariel (Jessica Grove), his youngest daughter with a voice like her late mother's, who brings his fatherly angst to the surface as she yearns of everything human, including the handsome Prince Eric (Eric Kunze), whom she plucked out of the sea when his boat capsized in a storm.
Triton's daughters' vibrant costumes of saffron, magenta, crimson and teal pair well with the set's hues, and when schools of colorful fish, stingrays and jellyfish props held by actors swim through scenes, it only highlighted all the beauty that is "Under the Sea," one of the 23 tunes penned by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater.
Kevin Smith Kirkwood is perfect as the lobster Sebastian, the king's musical director and Ariel's baby-sitter of sorts, with a spot-on Carribean accent that flavors his character's stuffiness with humor. Henry Hodges is a great fit too as Flounder, Ariel's kind of skater-boy sidekick.
Multi-talented Vicki Lewis holds court though, as Ursula, Ariel's diabolical aunt, who comes on as a mix between Mae West, Ethel Merman and Cruella DeVille. Koss goes over the top with Ursula's costume, crafting a stand-on-its-own gown of sorts out of her eight octopus arms.
You get Ursula's side story of the sibling rivalry between her brother the king and herself as she sings "Daddy's Little Girl." With her magic, Ursula learns of Ariel's yearning for humanness and Eric's affection and plots to use her niece to get back at her brother and capture his kingdom. Not a nice auntie.
Special effects reveal Ariel's transformation. As the consequences of her choice unfold, it's a reminder of the lengths some parents (real and imaginary) will go to protect their children. This stellar production of "The Little Mermaid" beautifully reveals that to kids of all ages.