Wednesday, May 27, 2015

reviews - DISNEY'S THE LITTLE MERMAID - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Cassandra Norville Klaphake
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

 "...Arizona Broadway Theatre’s colorful and expansive musical version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid...entering the ABT building is not unlike entering a Disney theatre in one of the theme parks.  The lobby is decorated with undersea backdrops, netting, and articles retrieved from sunken ships, and in one particularly nice design, as you hand your ticket over, it’s as if you’ve stepped into a small, undersea labyrinth, populated by theatre ushers...As for the show itself, the version now licensed for regional theatres is not quite the one that played on Broadway...With some changes from the film that might have proved too challenging, or perhaps simply too busy for the stage, Prince Eric (Patton Chandler with perfectly appropriate boyish good looks) doesn’t fall overboard or become rescued by Ariel (a totally engaging Jill-Christine Wiley), there are no shark chases, and the evil Ursula (Cassandra Norville Klaphake relishing every moment of her cartoon villainy) doesn’t grow to grotesque proportions during the climactic confrontation, though in one neat effect, her octopus-like tentacles become monstrously huge, enveloping King Triton ( a commanding Mark DiConzo) and keeping him prisoner within her grasp...Technically, ABT does great things.  With wires and good use of Paul A. Black’s scenic and lighting design, the theatrical illusion of being undersea is nicely achieved...Under the leadership of music director Mark 4Man, the band is...creating the impression of a full blown orchestra, while Kurtis W. Overby’s choreography and staging brings the two big numbers, Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl to memorable life....Coupled with the colorful, imaginative costumes of sea horses, jelly fish, snails and various other undersea creatures, Under the Sea, lead by the excellent voice of Aaron Ronelle’s Sebastian the crab...the illusion of some aquatic, crowd-pleasing Mardi Gras is achieved...Director Kiel Klaphake’s stage direction is assured for most of the production, though given Doug Wright’s new theatrical book, even Kiel can’t make the climactic conflicts work as well as they should...The Little Mermaid...will have youngsters leaving the theatre with thoughts of mermaids, prince and princesses and all kinds of magical looking creatures swimming in their heads, kicking off the family summer in grand, theatrical’ll feel as though you’ve spent the day in the Magic Kingdom but at ABT prices, and from a child’s perspective, no theatre in town can beat value like that." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

Jill-Christine Wiley
"...The Little Mermaid...bowed on Broadway 2008. Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona professional premiere of the musical in a big, splashy, colorful production with a talented cast and impressive creative elements....includes all of the toe-tapping film songs plus about ten new ones, with lyrics for the new songs by Glenn Slater, some of which are quite good. ...ABT's production is a family focused one, with director Kiel Klaphake joined by his wife Cassandra Norville Klaphake as Ursula and their two sons (along with two other boys) alternating in the role of Flounder. All do well with their respective contributions, especially Cassandra, who seems to relish with glee the part of the evil witch with the evil ways. Her big, brassy, and powerful voice knocks Ursula's songs to the back of the auditorium and beyond. She's having a blast playing this part and the audience on opening night appeared to have just as much fun watching her....As Ariel, Jill-Christine Wiley is very good, giving the part lovely shades of wonder, confusion, and excitement which combine to make Ariel's level of fascination with the human world realistic. She also has a lovely voice, adding plenty of warmth to her songs...Klaphake's direction allows for the fun, bright, and comical moments to be enjoyable, yet also allows for the more serious parts of the musical that deal with parental fears of losing their child to have resonance. He also never lets the more dark moments in the show that deal with Ursula ever approach true evil, making the show very family friendly. Kurtis W. Overby's choreography never stops in providing varied and inventive movement, creating numerous showstoppers, several of which include about a dozen youth ensemble members. Creative elements are full of color...beautiful costume designs, which include some stunning Day-Glo fish designs for "Under the Sea." Paul A. Black's set and lighting designs feature lovely coral reefs and also multiple shades of aquamarine, which combine to portray magical and beautiful underwater imagery. ...While the stage version of The Little Mermaid is a fairly by the numbers re-telling of the animated film, and some of the new songs written for the stage version pale in comparison to the film songs, it is still a fun, engaging show. With a powerhouse comical performance from Norville Klaphake as Ursula and a sweet and engaging one from Wiley as Ariel, and featuring clear direction and colorful, imaginative creative designs, the Arizona Broadway Theatre production is a family friendly gem." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Disney's "The Little Mermaid"...Arizona Broadway Theatre's splashy new version...highly recommended for little girls who love the movie...The excellent cast is led by Jill-Christine Wiley...In her overflowing red wig, Wiley is fetching and winsome as Ariel, the half-fish princess who falls in love with a human. Her pure soprano sounds great in such numbers as "Part of Your World," which is all the more impressive considering she spends a fair amount of the show strapped to cables that let her "swim" through the air....The best songs come from the 1989 movie, including "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl," both led by Aaron Ronelle as Sebastian, the charmingly crabby crab with a Caribbean accent. Another standout is Cassandra Norville Klaphake...who makes a deliciously witchy Ursula,...For the stage adaptation, which opened on Broadway in 2008, composer Alan Menken added several new numbers, few of which have the poppy appeal of the movie tunes...The material may be spotty, but Arizona Broadway's production, directed by Kiel handsomely done with fun flying effects...." -Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"...The Little on stage at Arizona Broadway Theatre in a resplendent and enchanting production, directed by Kiel Klaphake,...Ariel (Jill-Christine Wiley), the youngest daughter of Triton, the king of the sea (Mark DiConzo), is infatuated with the world above...One stormy day, she saves a prince (Patton Chandler) from drowning and falls tail over heels in love with him...Ariel's aunt Ursula (Lynzee Jaye Paul 4man), banished by Triton for practicing witchcraft, sees an opportunity for revenge and lures Ariel into a deal. In exchange for Ariel's voice, she will transform her niece into a human and give her three days to be kissed by Eric. If Ariel succeeds, she will become a human forever; if she fails, she will lose her soul to Ursula....Ms. Wiley is radiant as Ariel, capturing the vulnerability and hopefulness of her character. Ms. Foreman, however, knocks the ball out of the park as Ursula ~ menacing, brash, snarky, and sassy. She has attitude and style and a powerful voice to match. Standing in for Cassandra Klaphake, this understudy demonstrates a quality of talent that demands greater exposure ...Sandwiched between the sweet innocence of Ariel and the sinister ambition of Ursula is a veritable smorgasbord of colorful characters, all played with panache and joyous wit.There's the marvelous Aaron Ronelle as Sebastian the hip Jamaican crab, charged by Triton to safeguard Ariel. Mr. Ronelle's presence brightens the stage and makes Under the Sea one of the show's more vibrant and memorable moments....Greg Kalafatas who does a knock-your-socks-off performance as Chef Louis...Paul Black's set and lighting create for all these characters an enchanting and magical illusion of a deep sea empire....ABT's staging of The Little Mermaid is a winner and needs to be on every family's entertainment schedule." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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