A Fresh Perspective on The Little Mermaid
From the start, Disney has been so successful on Broadway that we have come to expect that anything short of the kind of critical and commercial success of a Lion King or a Beauty and the Beast is a complete and utter flameout. Tarzan was the first chink in the Disney armor. And if one goes by the critical clambake that seemed to cook The Little Mermaid last Friday, it would seem as if it's strike two against Disney Theatricals. But wait. Let's get real. Nobody - not even Disney - can create shows that run seemingly forever all the time. Isn't it enough that The Mouse has put on a rather spectacular visual spectacle for little girls of all ages? No, it isn't Disney's greatest Broadway production, but one can hardly dismiss the things that do work in this show ... and there are quite a few.
To begin, the cast is rather better than their material. Sierra Boggess is a revelation as Ariel; here is an ingénue with both a wonderful voice and considerable charm. She is going to swim away from this show a star. So, too, Sean Palmer, as the Prince is a genuine Broadway leading man and cuts a dashing figure, to boot. Sherie Rene Scott looks like she's having a ball, and that joy in the role of Ursula conveys itself across the footlights. The rest of the supporting cast, in particular Eddie Korbich and John Treacy Egan, display considerable comic skills that truly stand out.
Say what you will about the set and costume design, there are very few shows on Broadway where you can really see the budget on stage; this is one of them. Gaudy? Over-produced? Excessive? Sure, but you can't take your eyes off of that stage. The fact is, The Little Mermaid is likely going to run a very long time. And truth be told, worse musicals will come and go while it continues to tread the boards.
Savages: When Have You Seen So Many Stage Actors in a Movie?
It just so happens that Savages is a very fine film, but theatergoers who know their thespians will take particular pleasure in watching one stage actor after another make their mark in this small treasure of a movie. To begin, the three leads are none other than Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and Phillip Bosco. All three are sensational. Then comes the flood: Peter Friedman, Debra Monk, Margo Martindale ... hell, even Theater For a New City is in this movie!
A family drama, Savages deals with the ways in which two adult children of a difficult, unloving father come to terms with their parent when he is alone, destitute and dying. Flawed human beings, both of whom are trying to do the right things, they create a subtle yet effective portrait of modern nobility. This is a sad movie but not a depressing one because both characters grow and change for the better because of their experience together.
Put another way, going to see Savages is as close to going to the theater as you can possibility get and still have popcorn.
-- Barbara and Scott Siegel