Tuesday, July 11, 2017

reviews - DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID - Hale Centre Theatre

Caelan Creaser and Brandon Brown
Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 19th.


"...After Disney turned both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King into hit Broadway shows, it only seemed natural that they'd adapt The Little Mermaid for the stage. While it didn't prove as successful as those other two juggernauts, it does make for a fun, family friendly musical and with an incredibly talented cast and impressive creative elements Hale Center Theatre's production is an engaging crowd-pleaser....The musical's score features all of the popular tunes from the film as well as about ten new ones with lyrics by Glenn Slater that help flesh out the backstory of Ursula and the inner feelings of both Eric and King Triton. While many of these new songs are good, including a superb quartet in act two, only one, "She's in Love," is as infectious as the film hits "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl." Both of those songs, under Cambrian James' always impressive direction and choreography, are turned into huge showstoppers at Hale...Hale's crackerjack creative team delivers a non-stop array of impressive stage designs including exceptional costumes, all made specifically for this production, by Mary Atkinson that are rich in color and creativity. Jeff A. Davis' superb lighting evokes both bright daylight scenes and a few dark and slightly scary underwater moments with subtlety and a beautiful palette of sea colors...Caelan Creaser projects the right combination of inquisitive innocence with a huge dose of upbeat excitement as Ariel. Both she and Matt Krantz, making his Hale debut as a very charming and likable Eric, have beautifully clear singing voices that bring their many numbers vibrantly alive. Melissa VanSlyke is having a blast as the evil Ursula with a subtle injection of glee in every evil thing she does and a big, brassy voice that makes her songs soar.
As Sebastian, Ariel's prim and proper crab friend, Vinny Chavez gets to lead the show's two big showstoppers and brings a lot of joy and good comic timing to the part. Ben Mason interjects the right balance of parental concern and tough love as King Triton and provides several moving moments in the second act, especially in his beautiful singing contribution in the "If Only" quartet....
The Hale ensemble for this production have to be the hardest working I've ever seen...with what seems like split second costume changes. ...a fairly by the numbers retelling of the hugely successful animated film. However, most of the added songs written for the stage version aren't quite up to the standards of the Oscar winning film score and there are a few issues with plot holes in the book. However, it still succeeds in being a very fun and engaging stage musical. While Hale can't be faulted for the show's few drawbacks, their fast-paced staging, expert cast, and stunning creative elements help to compensate for the issues I have with the stage version, and the end result is a beautifully lush, colorful and fun, family-friendly treat." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Hale Centre’s new production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid...under Cambrian James’ direction...is a family-audience charmer, ablaze in color and clever, theatre-in-the-round invention. In showbiz, timing is everything, and staging this fairytale musical during the summer when school is out and temperatures are constantly in the triple digits, timing could not be better....Ariel (Caelan Creaser)...one of several troublesome, teenage daughters to King Triton (a muscular Ben Mason; no painted-on abs here) remains fascinated with life above the sea and wants so much to be a part of that world. After rescuing the dashing young Prince Eric (Matt Krantz) from a watery doom, and realizing that she’s falling in love with him, she makes a deal with the devil – in this case, her villainous Aunt Ursula (a deliciously evil Melissa VanSlyke) – and surrenders her voice in order to be human and live on the surface, but it all comes at an unforeseen cost....Being a theatre in-the-round, there are no sets or painted flats, just props to suggest settings and a carefully designed, atmospheric lighting plan. Tables, chairs, and podiums slide on with great efficiency, rarely pausing the flow or the rhythm of locations changed....the production scores with its voices. ..Highlights ...include the opener to Act 2 where Scuttle (a playful Raymond Barcelo, faintly channeling Jack Black) and his chorus of bespectacled tap-dancing seagulls try to raise Ariel’s down-in-the-dumps spirits by performing Positoovity for her...the standouts are the high-spirited Under The Sea and the tender Kiss The Girl, both presented with a kaleidoscopic array of color and creativity, and both lead by Sebastian, the Caribbean red crab (a hugely effective Vinny Chavez)...New to Hale Centre’s stage is Matt Krantz as the dashing Prince Eric, whose new solos, Her Voice and One Step Closer, are both fine examples of songs well sung. ...Caelan Creaser triumphs... With a clarity of voice and a natural, theatrical presence...you can’t help but be drawn to her or her exuberance. ..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

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