By John Baggett
July 28th, 29th, 30th, August 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 13th (7:30pm); and July 31st, August 7th and 14th (2:30pm) – “Disney’s The Little Mermaid JR.” – In a magical kingdom fathoms below, the beautiful young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above. But first, she’ll have to defy her father King Triton, make a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula, and convince Prince Eric that she’s the girl with the enchanting voice. Adapted from Disney’s 2008 Broadway production, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid JR.” features the hit songs “Part of Your World,” “She’s in Love,” and the Oscar®-winning “Under the Sea.” Tickets July 28th-31st are $20 and August 4th-14th is $25.
The 2016-2017 season at Tyler Civic Theatre has kicked off, and it opened with a bang, or should I say “splash?” This new season, which looks to be spectacular with everything they have on the schedule, opened with the annual summer musical. TCT brought out the big guns with the production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
“The Little Mermaid” is based on the 1989 Disney classic which was inspired by the story by Hans Christian Andersen. The film was later adapted into a lavish stage musical which debuted in 2007 and made it to Broadway in 2008.
The play is the story of Ariel (Rachael Cilliers), a mermaid obsessed with the human world. She constantly goes to the surface to watch humans and explores shipwrecks to search for knick-knacks for her collection. One day she sees Prince Eric (Jordan Boyd) out on the sea with his crew and becomes infatuated with him. Her father, King Triton (Jonathon Davidson), has forbidden Ariel from exploring the human world, fearing them as murderers after the disappearance of his wife years prior.
Eric’s ship is caught in a storm, caused by Ariel’s evil aunt, Ursula the sea witch (Carol Burrow Leos). Ariel rescues him, and Eric hears her voice, causing him to also fall in love with her, but Ariel disappears before he can find out who rescued him. Triton finds out about Ariel visiting the humans and she runs away. She visits Ursula, who offers to use her magic to turn her into a human, but there is a catch. Ariel would have to trade her voice for legs, and she must make Eric fall in love with her in three days, complete with a kiss or she would lose her soul to Ursula. Ariel takes the deal, and her friends Flounder (Ethan Gonzalez) and Sebastian (Chris Brantley) must do whatever it takes to make sure Eric will “Kiss the Girl.”
“The Little Mermaid” is the third summer musical directed by Stephen Rainwater, following the 2013 and 2014 “Footloose” and “Hairspray.” “Hairspray” was actually the first show I ever saw at TCT and has remained as one of my favorites. Rainwater keeps his winning streak alive and delivers another great show.
With a cast of over 30 actors, “The Little Mermaid” is absolutely a “can’t miss” show. Cilliers is fantastic as Ariel, with a voice that honestly reminded me of Jodi Benson in the original film. Seriously. Boyd is also dynamic as Prince Eric, and I hope to see him in more productions because this man can sing.
As good as our main characters are, the supporting cast shines just as brightly as our leads. Brantley, who rocked the house last summer as Buddy Holly, is amazing. Gonzalez, who was last seen in “Les Miserables,” is incredible and has a bright future ahead of him. Christopher Fisher is absolute comic gold as Scuttle the Seagull. In a cast that seems to be filled with joy, the one that could be accused of having the most fun on stage is Leos, who is wickedly fun playing Ursula. Not to mention that Ursula’s minions, Flotsam (Walker Delk) and Jetsam (Emily Rohrman) are also r”eel”y fun to watch, as well. Davidson gives a commanding performance as Triton, and Andy Martinez is wonderful as Eric’s long suffering advisor, Grimsby. The remaining cast, all of whom I wish I could name, but this review would go on forever, is great, and it’s a toss-up on who is enjoying their time more, them or the audience.
“The Little Mermaid” is fantastic. I know a lot of time and energy went into this show, from building the sets, to learning the lines, to getting the musicians together. It was a lot of hard work and it shows. It’s a fun night out for the entire family and even I had a lot of fun watching a Disney princess come to life. Go see it. I guarantee you that you’ll have a great time.
“The Little Mermaid” opens tonight at Tyler Civic Theatre and runs until August 14th.
Tyler Civic Theatre is located at 400 Rose Park Drive in Tyler, next to the Tyler Rose Garden Center. For more info call (903)592-0561 or tylercivictheatre.com. The box office is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students.