Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Little Mermaid
Purely Magical
Beck Center for the Arts

Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's reviews of Cabaret and Light the Lights, Ol' Moses Cle! (A Wild Holiday Romp)


Kathleen Rooney
Photo by Kathy Sandham
Note: Parents bringing young children to the Beck Center for the Arts production of Disney's The Little Mermaid need to educate their youngsters of the fact that this is a staged version of their beloved animated movie (of which they have seen 468 times) and therefore will not match the film exactly. There is no reason to announce this fact using their "outside voice" to the general population of the audience during the show. Also, squirming, general talking, whining and seat kicking during the performance are not permitted in the theater by either the children or their parents.

It becomes apparent as you take your seat in the Beck Center for the Arts' Mackey Theater that nothing is being spared for this production of The Little Mermaid. The detailed and extensive set by David Puskas is overlaid with a sophisticated series of video projections designed by Adam Zeek that will make you feel like you are indeed under the sea.

As the show begins, the stage is filled with colorful costumed characters designed by Leon Dobkowski (provided by Music Theatre Wichita). As the various "creatures of the deep" begin to move as one in a dance sequence choreographed by Martin Cespedes, the magic is complete. Later on, in what seems a blink of an eye, the stage is turned into a fairyland castle complete with chandeliers, all through the magic of projection.

Loosely based on the classic fairy tale and Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid begins under the waves. Princess Ariel (daughter of King Triton) is fascinated by life above the surface of the ocean and even collects objects once owned by air breathers. Prince Eric (who is more interested in sailing than ruling) is tossed from his ship during a storm and saved by Ariel. All the prince can remember is a mysterious and beautiful voice that sang as he was brought back to safety.

Having saved the prince, Ariel finds that she has fallen in love with him and will do anything to be with him. She makes a deal with her evil aunt, the evil sea witch Ursula, who has been banished years ago by King Triton. In exchange for three days on land with legs, Ariel will lose her voice. If she can get the prince to fall in love with her and kiss her, the transformation will be complete forever and her voice will return. If not, she will be a silent slave to Ursula, thus setting the stage for an epic battle of good vs. evil.

What makes this production so very good is the care that was taken with casting. Beck veteran Kathleen Rooney shines as Ariel and is the ultimate triple threat of great voice, dance moves, and acting. She draws in the audience no matter what their age. Shane Patrick O'Neill is Prince Eric and has all the little girls (as well as quite a few big girls) swooning. The real showstopper, of course, is Wesley Allen in the role of the Jamaican-flavored Sebastian who shines in his standout number "Under the Sea" and the comic number "Les Poissons" with Robert Pierce as the seafood-obsessed Chef Louis. Also notable is Zachary Vederman as Scuttle, who does an amazing dance and singing number "Positoovity" while dressed as an oversized seagull. Natalie Blalock does an excellent turn as the heavy in her portrayal of the evil Ursula along with her minions Flotsam (Summit J. Starr) and Jetsam (Carlos Antonio Cruz).

If you are looking for a break from the candy cane infused holiday fare but still want to see something suitable for a young family, this is the show to see. The lavish set, costumes, and video projections create a magical undersea world that, when combined with excellent voice and choreography, makes for a wonderful evening of solid entertainment.

The Beck Center for the Arts production of Disney's The Little Mermaid in the Mackey Theater through December 31, 2016. Tickets are $31 for adults, $27 for seniors (65 and older), and $12 for students with a valid I.D. A $3 service fee per ticket will be applied at time of purchase. Group discounts are available for parties of four or more. Purchase tickets online at beckcenter.org or call Customer Service at 216-521-2540 ext 10. Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, just ten minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Free onsite parking is available.

Cast:
Shane Patrick O'Neill: Prince Eric
Brian Pedaci: Grimsby
Darryl Lewis*: Kink Triton
Wesley Allen: Sebastian
Kathleen Rooney*: Ariel
J.R. Heckman: Flounder
Zachary Vederman: Scuttle
Natalie Blalock*: Ursula
Summit J. Starr: Flotsam
Carlos Antonio Cruz: Jetsam
Robert Peirce: Chef Louis.
*Actor appears courtesy of the Actors Equity Association

The Creative Team:
Scott Spence: Director
Larry Goodpaster: Musical Director
Martin Cespedes: Choreographer
Douglas Puskas: Scenic Designer and Prop Artisan
Jeff Herrmann: Lighting Designer
Carlton Guc: Sound Designer
Adam Zeek: Projections Designer Leon Dobkowski: Costume Designer


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