Students on Students: A Review of The Little Mermaid,
by Clara Baisinger-Rosen
The young actors at Imagination Stage truly shine in this weekend’s production of The Little Mermaid. Directed by John Eby, music directed by Piero Bonamico, and choreographed by Amelia Nickles, the show is a hit for audiences of all ages. Whether or not you are one for modern dance moves or even a doo-wop style song, The IStage Performance Ensemble’s The Little Mermaid is a show for anyone who is looking for a fun time. For starters, this group made great use of the Lerner Family Theatre at Imagination Stage. Currently set up for the simultaneously running professional production of Cinderella, the set includes large gray trees, chandeliers, and gray walls adorned with different kinds of lights. However, this didn’t stop the director and ensemble from creating their own unique world using just one item: a single roll of cloth per actor. The double sided cloth was waved by the actors on the blue side in order to create the effect of a rippling ocean, and on the brown side to simulate a ship going through the water. It was very well done, and just abstract enough to be more interesting than some simple cut out waves. As for the costumes (by professional designer Kristina Martin), they showed exactly who the characters were without being too flashy or too simple. Even without period clothing, the costumes get their point across and do more for those who need it, and less for those who don’t. Some of the more memorable costumes were worn by Ariel (in a fish-patterned skirt that would later turn into leggings), Ursula (in a witchy, purple number with tentacles as far as the eye can see), and the mermaid sisters (who each had their own glittery color scheme that translated onto their makeup as well). Overall, everyone’s costume was exactly what they needed to demonstrate their characters.
The actors themselves worked so well together, especially with scene changes and large dance numbers. The group of sailors carrying the boat cloths somehow managed to still appear as though they were sailing and looking into the ocean while they performed a carefully choreographed movement scene using a cloth-crafted rocking boat. Some actors that particularly stood out in their performances were Annabel Baniak as Flounder, Gretchen “Rozie” Hoff as Chef Louis, and of course Caitlyn Forté as the lovely Ariel. Baniak has a very strong voice that really “swims” around the room, and she always looked excited to be onstage and performing. Hoff may not have been in the spotlight for the whole musical, but nevertheless stole the show with her hilarious performance of the Chef song. And finally, Caitlyn Forté was the perfect casting choice for Ariel. Her voice was strong and her breath control great. She never seems to run out of energy and was fearlessly lifted and thrown about for the sake of making the ocean look realistic. Forté has obviously put a lot of work into this role.
There were many amazing moments in the show, but a select number of dance numbers and acting moments really stood out. For a start, all of Ursula’s scenes were something to look forward to. The way the actors all worked together with their voices and body movement created an amazing group of scenes. Something else you should keep an eye out for are the moments of interaction between King Triton (Spencer Hoffman) and Sebastian (Jacob Gee). These two actors had great chemistry and played off of each other so well. Even when they weren’t being funny, they still found a way to bring a little bit of light into a dark scene. Finally, the performance of “Kiss the Girl” was one of the best moments of the entire show. Sebastian (Gee), has a voice that never ceased to amaze, and the cast’s backing vocals were perfectly executed. The dancing between Prince Eric and Ariel was highlighted in a spotlight while Sebastian danced around the stage and made the audience laugh. Overall, The Little Mermaid was a beautiful show filled with so many talented actors and amazing elements. There really is something for everyone in this musical – moments that get toes tapping and audiences laughing. From “Kiss the Girl” to the mermaid sisters’ song, the IStage Performance Ensemble’s production of The Little Mermaid is absolutely worth seeing.
Review by Clara Baisinger-Rosen, budding writer and acting student at Imagination Stage. Baisinger-Rosen can next be seen in the Acting Conservatory’s production of Failure: A Love Story, running April 26-28 at Imagination Stage.
Photos by Jeremy Rusnock Photography, LLC.