By PAM HARBAUGH
Vibrant visuals, rousing musical numbers and commanding performances send Titusville Playhouse’s production of Disney’s musical “The Little Mermaid” into that realm of theater magic.
In fact, experiencing the sensational “Under the Sea” number has so much unbridled joy, it will take you back to your own childhood. Really, resistance is futile to its infectious glee. First, there is professional actor Sterling Lovett who is so fantastic as Sebastian, the Caribbean lobster. The stage is awash with singing mermaids and fish and mollusks and crustaceans convincing you that, as Dorothy of Kansas finally learned, life is just dandy in one’s own backyard.
SPOILER ALERT, NEXT PARAGRAPH…avert your eyes if you must.But then, the fishies venture into the audience, the lights are dimmed on the stage and black lights flood the house, turning the fish into colors that are even more marvelous. And then the bubbles descend from heaven and children are invited to work their bubble guns they bought in the lobby before the show began…and the young ones squeal and everyone is so happy happy happy you want to cry from the sheer delight of it all.
And all this is pretty doggone fantastic just as theater because this is one cue-heavy show. From characters flying from the ceiling of a theater with no fly loft and fast paced timing dictated by the recorded orchestral track….to frequent shifts in scenic units and William Gibbons-Brown’s sumptuous lighting design that feels as though its glowing from within.
At the head of this, obviously, is artistic director Steven Heron, who has brought a solid cast, crew and design team to create this ebullient “The Little Mermaid.” Mr. Heron wove his own magic with Pierre’s Costumes, the company that built every gorgeous, fanciful costume in this show — from mermaids and web-footed seagulls galore to glowing eels and royal court attendants.He brought on Alexander Nathan to direct, Spencer Crosswell to music direct and Mr. Lovett to choreograph (oh, wow..such smart work there). Dirk Clingman designed the adorable caricature puppets and Jay Bleakney made an elegant, simple scenic design. Mr. Bleakney’s skilled art work on the scenic units adds the perfect touch and supports the action rather than dominating it.
The stage talent steps up to this raised bar with some terrific performances. For sure, it is the cast who bring all this design work to life and make the production breathe and give voice to music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater.
Allison Lachnicht is lovely in her role of Ariel, the little mermaid who saves Prince Eric (Lucas Beecham) from drowning, then falls in love with him and wishes she could become human to live happily ever after. Ms. Lachnicht and Mr. Beecham, both sweet voiced performers, are the center of the charming number “Kiss the Girl” in which Sebastian and other animals serenade the couple.
Alvin Jenkins wins the adorable prize for his sweet, goofy turn as Scuttle, the awkward sea gull. Michael Colavolpe brings a handsome gravitas as Ariel’s loving father, King Triton. And Pilar Rehert laps up every drop of delight in her role as mean Ursula, the dastardly sea octopus who sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
Alas, there is but one weekend left and it’s close to selling out. The cast and crew are filling as many performances into this final weekend as they can. It’s up to you now to take the bait and go to Titusville Playhouse to experience this marvelous production.
To see a video with more photos, click here.
SIDE O’ GRITS: Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” runs through Sunday at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. It performs 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m., 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 to $26. Call 321-268-1125 or visit www.TitusvillePlayhouse.com.