This review of Narrows Community Theater's Summer Youth Production of Disney's The Little Mermaid at Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Disney's The Little Mermaid
Original Book by Doug Wright
Modified Book by Glenn Casale
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Additional Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Directed by Stearns Matthews
Musical Direction by Greg Matteson
Choreography by Katie Rose McLaughlin
Assistant Choreography by Emily Missud
Stage Managed by Eric Braunstein
Fort Hamilton Army Base Theater
403 General Robert E. Lee Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11209
The Little Mermaid is a stage musical about Ariel, a mermaid who trades her beautiful voice for the opportunity to become human for three days during which she must win the love of Prince Eric, that must be evidenced by his kissing her by sunset of the third day. If she gets the kiss, she will remain human. If she fails, her eternal soul will belong to her Aunt Ursula, who is in a struggle with her brother King Triton for control of the seas. The Little Mermaid is based on the 1989 Disney film, which in turn was based on the classic story by Hans Christian Andersen. The musical began previews on November 3, 2007, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, officially opening on January 10, 2008, and closing on August 30, 2009, after 685 performances and 50 previews. A modified version of the musical with a new book and direction by Glenn Casale was developed in 2012, and this version has been the basis for subsequent productions.
This presentation of Disney's The Little Mermaid is great fun! It features over fifty outstanding young actors many of whom definitely have a future in the theater. Nine talented musicians, led by Greg Matteson, provided the score. There were five standout performers - Abigail Summa, Steven Fazzolari, Amanda Summa, Anthony Berini, and Caitlyn Schmidt. Abigail Summa, who played Ariel, captivated the attention of the audience with her singing. Even though she gives up her voice, she continues to sing to the audience outside the earshot of her fellow actors on stage. Unfortunately, many of those songs were duets with Andrew Gonzalez, who played Prince Eric. Although he looked the part of a Prince, his singing voice was pitch-imperfect and cringe-worthy as reflected by the poor response of the audience. Steven Fazzolari was absolutely hilarious as Scuttle, the Seagull, who is supposed to have knowledge of human ways. The script has him making up words and stories. You'll never forget his rendition of "Positoovity." When he suggests Ariel must learn to "perambulate" if she wants to win the Prince's attention. Sebastian, the crab, misunderstands the meaning of the word "perambulate" and says Ariel "would never do that to win Prince Eric's love." In a very questionable decision by Stearns Matthews, the Director, Liam Specht performs Sebastian with the hand-gestures and voice inflections of a flamboyant gay man and ghetto-raised black woman. Amanda Summa was amazing as Flounder. She has a very strong stage presence and an excellent voice. Anthony Berini brought the house down as Chef Louis singing and acting during the song "Les Poissons." He nailed it! Finally, Caitlyn Schmidt was delightfully evil as the Sea Witch, Aunt Ursula. Even though she was wronged by her brother, it was hard to feel sympathy for her in light of the fact she is a mass murderer. Still, she was far more believable than was Brian Mansell, who played King Triton. His voice was far too high to come across as an authoritative King. The two big production numbers were "Under The Sea" and "Kiss The Girl." They were both brilliant and entertaining!
Ariel is a young girl who dreams "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence." She collects items from the human world and places them in her grotto ("look at this trove, treasures untold"). She saves Prince Eric, who falls overboard, and quickly falls in love with him. As Ursula ("ugly as a slug, hideous to hug") says, "The only thing more powerful than my magic is teenage hormones." Sebastian warns Ariel "to get your head out of the clouds and into the water where it belongs" and tells her "you're swimming in dangerous waters," but she is committed to giving up her family and friends to live in a foreign environment where humans eat the very fish who were once her friends. For dinner, Chef Louis was serving Lobster Bisque and Tuna Tartar. Without her voice, Ariel only has her attractive body and feminine mannerisms to get Prince Eric to love her. She succeeds and the Prince eventually chooses Ariel even over "the mysterious young woman with the beautiful voice" he has been searching for. As Prince Eric says, "We have much in common. You are a quiet girl in a noisy world and I am a Prince who would rather be a sailor." Even though her father thinks all humans are barbarians, Ariel "doesn't get cold fins" and defends them by saying, "You can't blame all humans for a few wicked ones." Eventually, Ursula is defeated and King Triton grants Ariel's wish (with the help of the audience waving lit Tridents they bought for $7.00 during intermission) to become a human permanently. Prince Eric asks King Triton for Ariel's hand in marriage but the King says "Ariel can speak for herself." She consents and supposedly lives "happily ever after" remaining "a bright light in a dark world." Two other bad directorial decisions included how Prince Eric was depicted as having fallen overboard (he basically ran off the stage) and the manner in which Ariel destroyed Ursula's "magic nautilus shell" and took back her father's Trident (all of which took place off-stage).
This production of Disney's The Little Mermaid is a great success. Despite the minor problems mentioned, I guarantee you will have a good time and be inspired by all the young talent who will be entertaining audiences for decades to come. Remaining performances are on Saturday, August 26th at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday, August 27th at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $25.00 for adults, $20.00 for seniors and students, and $15.00 for children 12 years of age and under. For ticket reservations and information, call NCT at 718-482-3173, or e-mail NCT@NCTheaterNY.com