Theater Review: Academy's 'Little Mermaid' Entertaining Way To Spend A Summer Morning

By: Hadley Whalen

Topics: Local Theater

The Little Mermaid, Jr.  COURTESY PHOTO

What could be more Cape Cod than a day at the beach? The Academy Playhouse’s summer-long children’s show sees the return of the underwater classic, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.”

An animated group of sailors, led by Laura Kaser, open the show with “Fathoms Below,” a lively shanty warning sailors against the siren’s call of mermaids.

While out for a sail, Prince Eric (Ethan Ehnstrom) hears Ariel’s dulcet tones, and immediately stricken with love, embarks upon a quest to find the girl to whom the voice belongs, despite the disapproval of his stuffy guardian, Grimsby (played by Baylie Hartford, who delivers an excellent British accent). Ehnstrom portrays the wayward prince with an easygoing yet determined air, as he grows into his role as a ruler.

As Ariel, Sarah Pike captures the mermaid’s ambition and naivete as she strives to learn more about the world above, hoping to one day become a part of it. Her lovely voice shines most brightly in Ariel’s opening song, “Part of Your World.”

Scuttle the seagull is Ariel’s friend from the surface, a self-declared “buff of human stuff.” Shannen Holbrook is hilarious with her aviary antics, in particular in the upbeat number “Human Stuff,” in which she is joined by a group of smaller seagulls (Finola Weller Baldet, Kayden Kaser and Aurelia Stamp) who punctuate the number with comical squawks.

As Flounder, Ariel’s best friend, Brielle Whalen captures the sidekick’s shift from a timid “guppy” to a more assertive fish as he is repeatedly dragged into Ariel’s schemes (full disclosure, Whalen is my sister). Whalen’s sweet voice is showcased in the number “She’s In Love,” accompanied by Ariel’s dancing mersisters.

King Triton, commandingly played by Josh Shafer, is reluctant to let his youngest daughter grow up, and concerned by her interest in the outside world, entrusts her to the care of the paranoid lobster Sebastian, who is comedically played by Connor Pike.

In order to gain Prince Eric’s affection, Ariel seeks help from the power-hungry sea witch, Ursula (Jess Williams). Accompanied by her two eel “sea spies,” Flotsam and Jetsam (Chloe Clark and Delia Castro) Williams sings a powerful “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” deftly portraying the sea witch’s dramatic and manipulative air.

The cast of characters includes many other quirky figures, like Chef Louis, the entertainingly sinister cook, played by Helena Moran. In “Les Poissons” Louis details his favorite ways to prepare fish, accompanied by a group of younger chefs in the upbeat number.

Ariel’s mersisters (Raven Berry, Rachel Dubois, Ella Kelly, Haley Labdon, Victoria Richardson and Marissa Wright) sing the charming “Daughters of Triton,” introducing Ariel. This group also doubles as spoiled princesses later in the play, as they vie for Prince Eric’s attention in the goofy number “The Contest.”

Keren Castro’s creative and varied costumes and director/music director Maddie Williams’ expert accompaniment round out the underwater adventure.

Running roughly 60 minutes, “The Little Mermaid Jr.” is a fun way to spend the morning for families with young children, rain or shine, “Under the Sea.”

 

DETAILS:

 

The Little Mermaid Jr.”

 

At The Academy of Performing Arts, 120 Main St., Orleans

 

Through Sept. 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.

 

Information and reservations: 508-255-1963, www.apacape.org