‘The Little Mermaid – JR’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by October 9, 2017

‘The Little Mermaid JR’ is a Disney stage musical, based on the classic, ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen. Doug Wright, John Musker, and Ron Clements wrote the book of the play. The catchy music was added by Alan Menken, and the hilarious lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater.

The production officially opened in late 2007. After 685 performances on Broadway, the show moved overseas to Philippines, The Netherlands, Russia and then Japan – then the World!

Tudor Theatricals presented this show in October, at the main theatre in the Koorliny Arts Complex in Kwinana, exactly 10 years after the first performance.

The major award-winning director, Brad Tudor, decided to set up a training course for young, ambitious hopefuls. The one-week course is known as a ‘boot camp’ – but a loving caring one – which sorts out the wheat from the chaff, whilst giving everyone a chance to appear in the major production’s two performances at the end of the week. The three dozen youngsters were taken from the first reading of the script, to a very professional performance in seven short days. Outstanding.

 

The scene is the depths of the ocean. Fronds of seaweed in various shades of blue and green, hang from the stage ‘ceiling’. There is a light blue cyclorama at the rear. The realistic wave effects were created by an energetic section of the ensemble, wafting wide lengths of silk.

Stage manager, Emma Stirling and her assistant, James Burnside, had some minor set changes but most of their time was probably concerned with the numerous – successful – mass entrances and exits of the large cast.

The lighting rigging and design was by Jon Lambert and Jayden Lynn. Jon Lambert and Allen Blachford designed the soundscape. All of the teching had to be carried out rapidly, and with minimal practise at the end of the boot camp.

       Prince Eric (Sebastian Cruse) is sailing the seas searching for the legendary merfolk. His counsellor, Grimsby (Angus Thomson), explains that the merfolk supposedly live under the waves. When Eric hears mellifluous singing, he goes in search of the singer.

       On the ocean floor, Princess Ariel (Mollie McGarrity), the daughter of King Triton (Koby Wade) is with her older sisters Aquata (Leona Barnes), Andrina (Talitha Fourie), Arista (Emily Corner), Atina (Elizabeth Eppen-Vanderaa), Adella (Bethany Paton) and Allana (Niamh Horton). They are discussing how their aunt, the sea witch Ursula (Maren Gosby) had killed their mother, the Queen. In her evil search for power, Ursula is determined to rule the waves by stealing it from her brother, Triton.

         Triton’s court composer, Sebastian the Crab (Declan Cooper) has composed a song for the mersisters, but Ariel is not there for her solo. Ariel is busy swimming in the ocean with her friend, Flounder (Austin Matthews) searching for souvenirs. In the storm, the Prince’s ship crashes on the rocks, and Ariel drags him ashore. A lively seagull, Scuttle (Alice Herbert) and his fellow seagulls, give Princess Ariel their ‘human things’ collection.

       Ariel has fallen in love with the half-drowned Prince. However, before Eric recovers on the beach, and on the advice of Sebastian Crab, Ariel has gone down to the seabed. The depths are being guarded by Ursula’s tough sea serpents, Flotsam (Bolton Fee) and Jetsam (Eden Volkers). They are there to ensure that Ariel will be safe, hoping she will eventually give her Triton’s throne.

       Chef Louis (Jack Churchman) is preparing a special meal for Ariel and her visitors, Grimsby and Prince Eric. Meanwhile, in the royal bedchamber, the Princess’s maid, Carlotta (Nina Mouton) lays out Ariel’s special evening gown.

       Will there be a Royal Wedding? or will Ariel’s evil aunt capture the seas?

 

The ensemble all worked very hard. Singing powerfully, dancing in step and smiling throughout. The chorus comprised Alex Thomson, Alyssa Clayden, Amie Spencer, Ava Woodgate, Ben Field, Bianca Butler, Charlotte Smith, Chloe Westwater, Daisy Churchman, Isabella Morrissey, Isabelle Soroka, James Mouton, Lillian Branson, Jayla Wragg, Jayvier Stevenson, Kelsey Morandin, Kelsey Weir, Kiera Kenward, Kieran Silver, Lauren Healey, Lilly Payne, Lily Churchman, Lily Westwater, Madison Soroka, Maika Gauden, Mia Cristodero, Monique Westphal, Niamh Carty, Olivia Hedley, Olivia Payne, Sally Curtis, Sienna Clay, and Tyler Weir. I loved the starfish.

This list includes the ensemble actor who popped her head around the drapes before the show, and then whilst performing, waved numerous times to her loved ones in the audience – oh dear; I know they are just kids, but all of the tiny tots were totally dedicated and focused. One poor actor had severe stage fright, but battled on – well done, do not lose faith, you will be a star someday – and congratulations to Ariel for skilfully and subtly coming to the rescue.

 

Director Brad Tudor, who once co-ordinated and acted as stage manager on a WAAPA international tour, has done an amazing job. The leads not only performed well, but showed great potential for the future. So special congratulations to Mollie, Declan, Alice and Maren who demonstrated superb stage presence, gave dynamic performances and completely captured their parts. Sebastian, Austin, Angus, Bolton, Jack and Eden all lit up the stage with their performances.

The bright, colourful, glittering costumes were immaculately made; thanks to the parents who were aided and supervised by Brad Tudor, Shanice Palfrey, Allen Blachford, Kerry Forrester, Carole Barnes, Jesse Angus, Jacqui McGarrity, and the Koorliny Arts Centre.

The catchy music was supplied on a special Disney CD, but musical director in charge of training this massive cast, was Bunbury girl, Shanice Palfrey. Shanice is a WAAPA graduate trained in Musical Theatre, who once sang at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Talented dancer, Allen Blachford, is also a Finley Award winner, as ‘Best Choreographer’; hence, his handling of the mersisters was particularly delightful – this showcase of talent could sing beautifully and move well, whilst radiating warmth and charm.

The audiences are all eagerly awaiting the next Tudor Theatrical production.