The touring production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid has made its way from under the sea to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this week, captivating both young and old audience members alike.
Diana Huey stars as the irresistible Little Mermaid. This is Huey’s first national tour, and her perky, enthusiastic nature shines through in her performance. She has a strong, powerful voice and maintains a continuous mermaid-like presence on stage. Huey swims across, up and down the stage via a flight harness, making it a physically demanding role, yet Huey appears to do it with ease.
Melvin Abston is also brilliant as Sebastian, the calypso-singing crab, and his rendition of “Under the Sea” is delightful, big and colorful.
The cast has some impressive Broadway credits, including Jenniffer Allen as Ursula and Steve Blanchard as King Triton. Notably, Blanchard is recognizable in another Disney princess movie for his role as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
The great surprise, though, is Jamie Torcellini’s portrayal of Scuttle (the seagull most famously known for revealing to Ariel that a fork is called a dinglehopper). Torcellini flies around the stage with a flight harness for most of the show before landing to perform an amusing tap-dance of “Positoovity” after Ariel gets her legs.
The costuming by Amy Clark and Mark Ross is intricate and vibrant, and Charlie Morrison’s and Kenneth Foy’s Lighting and Scenic Design, respectively, is captivating as well, mesmerizing audience members.
While this production does pay homage to the 1989 Disney film version, there are a few deviations from the film, such as Flounder’s awkward crush on Ariel, and King Triton’s sibling relationship to Ursula.
Although Flounder’s crush on Ariel is weird and slightly uncomfortable, the latter difference with Triton’s and Ursula’s familial backstory is interesting and allows for some depth and history between the two characters’ relationship.
In addition to these changes, Ariel is not merely a teenager love-struck with a prince and an outside world. This musical emphasizes her feelings — she doesn’t belong under the sea and feels different from the rest of the mer-folk. In short, she’s more on a quest of acceptance for who she is and to find out where she belongs — and finding out where one belongs is discovering where one’s home is.
If choosing three words to describe the production, it would be lighthearted, colorful and fun. The Little Mermaid is definitely a great family-friendly show for parents to take their kids to for some end-of-summer fun, but nostalgic college students will also enjoy the bright and entertaining musical telling the story they grew up watching over and over again on tape.
To purchase tickets for The Little Mermaid, visit TPAC’s website.
Photos by Steve Wilson, courtesy of TPAC