Sierra Repertory Theatre is a gem because they take on dramas, comedies, Shakespeare, and family musicals with the same gusto and commitment to production value which gives them a trusting reliability for audiences. Their currently running production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is no exception. The twenty-one-person cast delivers one of the most exciting and smoothly run Disney productions I have seen. Going under the sea at Sierra Rep should be a hot ticket for Sonora audiences!
(Abigail Campbell (Ariel) and Justin Burr (Prince Eric); Photo source: Sierra Repertory Theatre)
Director Jerry Lee and Choreographer Charlie Munday (who, doing double-duty, plays Flotsam) have staged a phenomenal sea world for the beloved characters to swim in. With their allegiance to honoring the film’s devotees, this wonderful musical adaptation is fully immersive and nostalgia triggering. Abigail Campbell is perfectly cast as Ariel in voice and quirky passion for human stuff, and makes her wandering to land a believable part of the titular mermaid’s journey. Campbell kicks the show off with a dazzling “The World Above,” a fine establishing tune setting up Ariel’s arc for those who may not know the story. Campbell does not disappoint in singing the iconic “Part of Your World,” complete with pensive lyric reads and a rapturous belt. Campbell’s chemistry opposite Justin Burr’s dashing Prince Eric, Asher Burg’s energetic Flounder, and Sincee J. Daniels’ King Triton is catered to each relationship’s idiosyncrasies. And while Lee doesn’t belabor any book scenes, he does allow each relationship to develop into fully realized connections, which is imperative to making Doug Wright’s expanded book work. Burr’s bari-tenor in “Her Voice” and “One Step Closer” is in captivating timbre, and his depiction of the enamored prince is grounded in honesty. Burg is a fun Flounder, and does well in hitting the punchlines and pick-up lines hurled towards Ariel. Burg is especially great among the Mersisters in the bop, “She’s in Love.” Daniels gives his Triton a commanding warmth, in that he exudes paternal authority of a properly depicted Triton while letting his guard down for audiences to see when engaging with his other daughters and Sebastian. Daniels teams up with Campbell, Burr, and Kaylene Howard’s Sebastian for a wonderful “If Only (Quartet),” which is song of reflection, determination, and wanting for the four characters.
(L to R: Charlie Munday (Flotsam), Kaylene Howard (Sebastian), Thaddeus Piett (Jetsam); Kneeling: Abigail Campbell (Ariel); Photo source: Sierra Repertory Theatre)
Howard is a hilarious Sebastian, making the crustacean performance a standout amongst the talented cast. Howard’s vocal pyrotechnics are showcased in the outstanding “Under the Sea,” a number that can’t be described as anything less than an explosion of stellar choreography, exciting lighting (designed by William Brown), and animated costumes (designed by Lukas Pirmin Wassmann). Howard gives a soothing, intimate feel to “Kiss the Girl” alongside Alex Alansalon’s charmingly kooky turn as Scuttle. “Kiss the Girl” is a ballad often lost to the potential kiss, but this number is—on brand with Lee and Munday’s aforementioned superb staging—a company number with its own merit of “will-they-won’t-they” while enjoying the movement and technical mood-setting atmosphere. Alansalon leads a swell act two opener, “Positoovity,” the musical’s way of shoehorning a tap number into the show. It’s done justice by Alansalon’s comical takes and the tap ensemble’s terrific tapping.
(Brenda O'Brien (Ursula) and Abigail Campbell (Ariel); Photo source: Sierra Repertory Theatre)
No proper The Little Mermaid is complete without one of the most treasured female villains in the Disney canon, which is Ursula, the Sea Witch. The sea is in devilishly good hands with Brenda O’Brien taking on the role with a booming voice and knack for comedic villainy. O’Brien’s leading of the also-iconic “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is exceptional, and her leading of “Daddy’s Little Angel,” alongside Munday’s Flotsam and Thaddeus Piett’s Jetsam makes the song-and-dance turn a lovely number. Munday and Piett’s dance talents are spectacularly used throughout the dance numbers. Their callisthenic back-up vocals are slitheringly good while serving the show well. Featured standouts come from Kevin Heath’s bumbling, affable Grimsby, Kabir Gandhi’s over-the-top comical Chef Louis, and the entire Mersister cohort, with specific shout out to Mia Mekjian’s turn as the sassiest sister, Aquata. Mekjian’s dance and vocal solo moments give great insight to how the sisters really feel about Triton’s favoring of Ariel.
(L to R: Kaylene Howard (Sebastian), Mia Mekjian (Aquata), Olivia Marie Jones (Andrina), Marlee Tierney (Adela), Katia Burke (Atina), Jackie Thompson (Arista), Asher Berg (Flounder), and Fiona Mowbray (Allana); Photo source: Sierra Repertory Theatre)
Disney’s The Little Mermaid always promises to be a good time, and Sierra Repertory Theatre’s production delivers on this promise. With it swimming along at the Fallon House through July 17th I encourage you to get your favorite Disney swag on and swim on over to see this show!