The Little Mermaid opened this past Tuesday night in Durham and brought a wave of Disney Magic to the stage at DPAC. I haven’t seen the animated film in quite a while but watching this touring production stirred up a strong dose of nostalgia as the story of the world’s most famous mermaid was brought to life on stage.
The show tells the story of Ariel, a mermaid princess (played by Diana Huey) who longs to leave behind the aquatic kingdom along with her life under the sea to join the humans on the surface. Ariel’s love for the land leads her to make secret journeys to the surface and on one such trip early in the first act she encounters Prince Eric (played Eric Kunze). Ariel ends up rescuing the Prince when he is thrown overboard the ship he is sailing and immediately falls for him further cementing her desire for a life on land.
Ariel’s dad, King Tritan (played by Steve Blanchard) is not pleased with Ariel’s fascination with humans as he blames them for the untimely death of Ariel’s mother. Ariel, being the headstrong mermaid she is turns to the sea witch Ursula in her desperation to make her human. But it comes at a heavy cost – her voice and her soul if she can’t get Prince Eric to kiss her before sunset on the third day.
The show is faithful to the movie with a few adjustments for the stage. These changes add to the story and allow us to learn a little more about the relationship between King Tritan and Ursula (they are brother and sister).
The cast was a lot of fun to watch in this production. Huey does an excellent job as Ariel and her voice shines in several of the numbers. It is truly amazing the job she does with vocals considering she is almost in constant motion gracefully swimming across the stage suspended high above the ground in a harness.
Sebastian, played by Melvin Abston, also gave a notable performance and almost stole every scene he was in. Abston is full form during the iconic songs “Kiss the Girl” and crowd favorite “Under the Sea”. Equally impressive was Ursual, played by Meredith Inglesby joined by her glowing minions Flotsam and Jetsam. And of course, the Chef Louis scene in the second Act was an absolute crowd favorite and had people singing along in their seats.
While I’m sure for many in the audience their favorite part of the show was the iconic songs, I was equally amazed at the sets and flight choreography is breathtaking as the characters float/swim across the stage. The cast and crew’s ability to seamlessly work between the stage and the rails deserves high praise for its fluidity and perfection in timing.
Another truly impressive aspect of the show was the sets, while simple in nature, use colors and lighting so well that you truly do feel like you are experiencing life under the sea. This production of “The Little Mermaid” feels like a storybook fantasy come to life on stage and is sure to be a crowd favorite for children and adults alike. There are limited seats available for the remaining shows, but worth trying to catch one if you can!
“The Little Mermaid” has performances at DPAC through Sunday, October 22nd. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-little-mermaid.