My wife is a big fan of The Little Mermaid, so when she found out that the North Carolina Theatre was doing a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, it was a given that we’d be attending. On Sunday night, August 3rd, we met some friends for dinner at Gravy in downtown Raleigh. Gravy is a non-chain Italian restaurant that focuses on local farmers, local brewers, and seasonal ingredients when they’re creating their menu. Dinner was excellent and if you’re ever in Raleigh looking for a good dinner, I highly recommend it. After dinner, we made the five-block journey to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts before taking in the 7:30 pm show.
First things first; I enjoyed the show. The majority of the music is the same music used for the film and we all know the score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman was fantastic. The book by Doug Wright was well written and the adaptation from screen to stage was well done. The main performers were excellent, especially Jessica Grové as Ariel and Ellen Harvey as Ursula. The star of the show for me was Alan Mingo, Jr. as Sebastian. From the moment he appeared on stage, he was perfect. His stage presence was fantastic and the way he sold every line as though it were the most important line in the musical was amazing. “Under the Sea” was the show stopper of the night and that was due largely to his performance.
However, I did have a few issues. First, the pacing of the show was bogged down in places. I consider myself a fan of musical theatre. I’ve seen shows on Broadway, in London, and various traveling shows here in North Carolina so I’m not easily bored during a show. Unfortunately, my mind did wander a few times during some of the songs, specifically “She’s in Love” performed by the Mersisters and Flounder. For me, that song was simply to showcase the talents of those actors which was fine, but it didn’t progress the story at all.
My other issue was specific to two scenes. Video was projected onto a screen depicting the scene where Prince Eric falls off the ship and Ariel saves him, and it was poorly done. This animated “rendition” appeared to have been animated on the old Atari video game system. They used the same system to show Ariel’s transformation from mermaid to human. This choice was so lacking the audience literally laughed out loud at the scene. I understand that the options for those two scenes were limited, but better execution would have been nice there.
Despite those issues, I still thought this production of The Little Mermaid was a well-done. (In case you were wondering: My wife enjoyed the show. It didn’t stick to the main storyline of the animated feature, but the music and characters that she loved as a child were still there so it still worked for her.) The audience seemed to be pleased as well. Each number received at minimum a short burst of applause and the scenes that really blew us away received more applause and adoration. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but when the show was clicking on all cylinders, man was it good.
If you’re a fan of the film and you have an opportunity to see a production, I’d recommend seeing it.