Water world: NSMT’s ‘Mermaid’ is blue heaven


Adrienne Eller as Ariel and Bruce Landry as Prince Eric in "The Little Mermaid." Photo:  Paul Lyden

Adrienne Eller as Ariel and Bruce Landry as Prince Eric in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Photo: Paul Lyden

BEVERLY — Take some Disney magic, add some more magic from the designers and actors at the North Shore Music Theatre, and the theater’s traditional July family musical is a spectacular singing, dancing treat for all ages.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is on stage in Beverly through July 27, and it’s is a very worthy successor to the 1989 Oscar-winning animated movie, and a treat for the eyes and ears.
Based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved children’s stories, “The Little Mermaid” is the story of an underwater kingdom, and the beautiful young mermaid named Ariel, who longs to leave her ocean home behind and live in the world above.
But along the way she’ll have to defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula, and convince Prince Eric that hers is the voice the prince has been seeking.

J. Cameron Burnett as Sebastian and Mark Campbell as King Triton in Disney's "The Little Mermaid." Photo: Paul Lyden

J. Cameron Burnett as Sebastian and Mark Campbell as King Triton in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Photo: Paul Lyden

Adrienne Eller has been rehearsing to play Ariel since she was just a little girl — check out the photos of her on this web site — and she captures both the vulnerability of a young girl and her character’s steely determination to explore a world above that fascinates her.
Her professed desires concern her loving father King Triton (Mark Campbell) — Ariel happens to be the youngest of seven daughters — to the point where he assigns the crab Sebastian (J. Cameron Burnett) to monitor her movements.
Ariel happens to be in the right place at the right time when a storm shipwrecks Prince Eric (Bruce Landry), and her voice captivates him.
Ariel longs to exchange her fins for legs and pursue the prince, so she makes a deal with King Triton’s sister, the evil sea witch Ursula (Kecia Lewis). She enters the world above, and the ride gets very bumpy until the happy ending.
Burnett is a hoot as the Jamaican-accented Sebastian, whose reggae-flavored renditions of two award-winning songs — “Under The Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl” — are vocal highlights.
Freddie Kimmel is funny as the Norm Crosby-like, word-mangling seagull Scuttle, and Shawn Platzker is fine as Ariel’s bewildered fish buddy Flounder.
Special mention to David Scott Purdy, who stepped in for Eddie Mekka and did a fine job in NSMT’s “Anything Goes” and here has a nice comic turn as Chef Louis in the “Les Poissons” number.
NSMT owner Bill Hanney has unleashed a talented corps of designers, and this is a great-looking and great-sounding show.
The imaginative costumes were designed by Kurt Alger and created from scratch at the Maine State Music Theatre and worn for the first time at this production.
Howard Jones’ clever scenic design for the undersea world pairs nicely with the lighting of Kirk Bookman and Charles Coes’ sound design.
There’s some great techno-wizardy involving a scary entrance by the part-human, part-octopus Ursula near the end of the show.
The “flying” — or aerial swimming, if you will — is well-designed by Paul Rubin.
AC Ciulla’s choreography is sprightly, fast, funny and spectacular when called for, especially in the jaunty, toe-tapping, Oscar-winning “Under The Sea;” watch for the flying jellyfish.
Director Michael Hertzman ties it all together in a neat theatrical bow.
One of the biggest stars of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” remains the score, with many of the songs written for the 1989 animated film, by the songwriting team of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, who died in 1991. They are augmented by new tunes written by Menken and Glen Slater. Songs from the film such as “Part of Your World” and “Poor Unfortunate Soul” meld well with the Menken-Slater pieces such as “World Above” and “If Only.” The score is given a feisty, spirited rendition by an orchestra led by Bruce Barnes.
Yes, kids will love “The Little Mermaid,” but with a fine score, strong voices, creative choreography, and dazzling special effects, there’s a lot for theater-goers of all ages to like.
Tickets for Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” are priced from $50 – $75. Performances are July 8 – 20, Tue – Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm. Added performances are July 24 at 2pm and 7:30pm, July 26 at 2pm and July 27 at 2pm. Kids 18 and under save 50% on ‘Family Fridays’- July 11 & 18 at 8 pm. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, visit www.nsmt.org, or visit the box office in person at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA.