Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Disney's The Little Mermaid
Beck Center for the Arts
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's reviews of Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars, Camelot and The Loush Sisters Get Hard for the Holidays


J.R. Heckman, Kathleen Rooney and Zachary Vederman
Photo by Kathy Sandham
It was an army of munchkins with parents in tow that descended on the Beck Center for the Arts this past Sunday for the matinee performance of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Keeping a mixed audience of 6 and under and adults simultaneously entertained is a daunting undertaking, but fortunately, the Beck Center is up to the task.

It is a fast-moving show with lots of fun dance numbers, colorful costuming, spritely music and an easy to follow story with a good moral foundation. Director Scott Spence allows his cast to play it loud and for laughs as they bring their cartoon characters to life.

Ariel (Kathleen Rooney) is a mermaid who lives with her father King Triton (Darryl Lewis) under the sea. Her best underwater friends include Sebastian (Wesley Allen) the crab and Flounder (J.R. Heckman) the fish. Ariel's above the waves friend is the seagull Scuttle (Zachary Vederman). The little mermaid has grown bored of her watery existence and wishes that she could have legs instead of fins and be a human being on land, while up on the surface, Prince Eric (Shane Patrick O'Neill) wishes to be rid of his royal duties and to be a sailor traveling the world instead. During a bad storm at sea, the prince is swept overboard and rescued by Ariel who gets him back to shore. All the prince can remember is a beautiful, lilting singing voice.

The rescue furthers Ariel's desires to be human and in desperation she seeks the aid of her banished aunt, Ursula (Natalie Blalock), who through sorcery turns the mermaid into a human but takes her voice hostage as part of the deal. Ariel has just three days to get the prince to fall in love with her and give her a kiss or she loses her voice and becomes a slave to Ursula forever. With the aid and encouragement from her friends, the young woman manages to meet Prince Eric again and romance slowly begins between the two of them—but not without problems.

The strong point of this production is that all of the principal members of the cast have returned from last year's run and they are better than ever. Leading the laughs is Wesley Allen as Sebastian, whose Jamaican accent adds to his comic persona. The chase scene with Chef Louis is madcap comic perfection and has everyone in the audience (children and adults alike) laughing hysterically. J. R. Heckman as the poor put-upon Flounder always seems to be in trouble with King Triton over circumstances beyond his control. Zachary Vederman is wonderful as the zany seagull Scuttle, making full use of his huge costume for laughs. Darryl Lewis as King Triton starts out stern but soon shows his love for his favorite daughter. The romance between Kathleen Rooney's Ariel and Shane Patrick O'Neill's Prince Eric is sweet and gentle and well balanced. Natalie Blalock as the evil Ursula commands the stage in her very intimidating costume, as her minions Flotsam (Steven Huynh) and Jetsam (Carlos Antonio Cruz) do her nefarious bidding.

One surprise for attendees of past productions in the Beck Center's Mackey Theater is the balance in the sound system. Long a shortcoming of this venue, this particular performance had the solos ringing loud and clear with a nice balance from the superb eleven-piece orchestra under the direction of Larry Goodpaster. Even the large ensemble numbers sound extremely good throughout the theater.

For those with young children you are wishing to expose to live musical theater, this is as good as it gets. It is a beloved Disney animated classic brought to life with bigger than life performances. Share this with the ones you love this holiday season.

The Beck Center's Disney's The Little Mermaid, in the Mackey Theater, 17801 Detroit Rd, Lakewood, Ohio, through December 31, 2017 (no performance on December 24, 2017). Tickets may be ordered online at www.beckcenter.org or by phone at (216) 521-2540.


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