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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Disney's The Little Mermaid
Olney Theatre Center

Also see Susan's reviews of Bad Jews and Fiddler on the Roof

Lara Zinn and Donna Migliaccio
Olney Theatre Center, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, is presenting the area premiere of Disney's The Little Mermaid. With its sumptuous staging and sure-handed direction by Mark Waldrop, the musical is an entertaining and highly professional production that should appeal to all ages.

Howard Ashman (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music) wrote the songs for the original Disney animated musical in 1989; Ashman died of AIDS in 1991. Glenn Slater joined Menken to create additional songs for the 2007 Broadway production, with a book by playwright Doug Wright.

The stage musical expands on the animated original; Waldrop and choreographer Tara Jeanne Vallee use ingenious stagecraft to bring the story to life. Moving strips of blue-green fabric create the ocean waves in which Ariel (Lara Zinn) frolics downstage and on which Prince Eric (Joe Chisholm) sails upstage. Scuttle the pompous seagull (Clark Young) soars above the stage (thanks to D2 Flying Effects). Pei Lee has devised costumes for Ariel and her mermaid sisters that allow them to "float" on hidden feet as their tails bounce behind them. The "Under the Sea" number comes to life with the help of three-dimensional puppets (designed by Andrea "Dre" Moore), jellyfish created out of umbrellas, and even a pair of sharks. And who can pass up a chance to watch a chorus of gulls tap dance on sand?

While Zinn gives a lovely, poised performance and sings beautifully, and Chisholm matches her as a prince as uncomfortable in his world as Ariel is in hers, the dominant performance is Donna Migliaccio as the sea witch Ursula. Her performance is over the top yet multilayered, transcending the artifice of her elaborate makeup and hair design and her bell-shaped costume. Nicholas Ward is commanding in posture and voice as King Triton, father of Ariel and brother of Ursula, while Troy Hopper charms as Sebastian the musical crab, and Sean McComas simpers adorably as Ariel's friend Flounder.

James Fouchard's scenic design shifts easily between the underwater and earthbound realms, with strong assistance from Julie H. Duro's lighting design (illuminated seaweed and shafts of prismatic light for the former, elegant candelabras for the latter).

Olney Theatre Center
Disney's The Little Mermaid November 12th December 28th
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Book by Doug Wright
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film produced by Howard Ashman and John Musker and written and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements
Ariel: Lara Zinn
Pilot: Ethan Watermeier
Prince Eric: Joe Chisholm
Grimsby: Kenneth Derby
Flounder: Sean McComas
Scuttle: Clark Young
King Triton: Nicholas Ward
Sebastian: Troy Hopper
Flotsam: Nurney
Jetsam: Robert Mintz
Ursula: Donna Migliaccio
Chef Louis: Ethan Watermeier
Ensemble: Jane Bunting, Jennifer Cordiner, Jay Garrick, Matt Greenfield, Lance E. Hayes, Gracie Jones, Ethan Kasnett, Ashleigh King, Taylor Elise Rector, Suzanne Stanley, Ethan Watermeier
Directed by Mark Waldrop
Musical director: Darius Smith
Choreographer: Tara Jeanne Vallee
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or

Photo: Stan Barouh

-- Susan Berlin

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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