Students on Students: A Review of The Little Mermaid JR
by Kaylen Chang
Imagination Stage’s ISPE (IStage Performance Ensemble, made up of students in grades 6-12) brought the classic Disney tale, The Little Mermaid Jr., to the stage using everything from colorful hip-hop numbers to romantic duets to powerful villain ballads. Ariel (Caitlyn Forté) longs to be on land in search of true love. But before she can live happily ever after, she must sacrifice her voice to Ursula the Sea Witch (Molly Howard), and leave her beloved ocean home where her father, King Triton (Spencer Hoffman), reigns mighty. The show presented a challenge with the two major settings: land and water. But the creative staff found a solution: The ensemble waved brown rolls of fabric on stage to represent the land, Prince Eric’s (Conall Sahler) home, while blue rolls of fabric represented the ocean, Ariel’s world.
During the pre-show, one by one, actors gradually placed blue ribbon rolls on stage forming the realm of King Triton. The costumes of gold, pink, purple, and green shined under the stage lights with blue streamers flowing on their arms or hips. Some were sailors, some were mermaids or fish, and some were chefs! The entire ensemble worked so well together – each individual actor stayed engaged throughout, fabricating the worlds of the land and sea. In “Under the Sea,” unlike the movie, the musical theatre choreography was combined with hip-hop dance for an awesome number. Audiences can’t help but sing along to these catchy tunes!
Forté, with her beautiful voice, added a certain strength to the wondrous character of Ariel. She longed to be on land and out of the control of her father, King Triton. Forté’s sweet strength along with Sahler’s charm showcased the two’s chemistry on stage. Ariel’s sidekicks, Flounder (Annabel Baniak), Sebastian (Jacob Gee), and Scuttle (Grace Harvey), keep us laughing even when the waters get rough. Flounder is Ariel’s best friend and helps her along the way to shore, while Sebastian hilariously teaches her how to flirt with Prince Eric. Scuttle assists Ariel with understanding human things such as dingle-hoppers! As this talented trio swim, sing, and squawk through the show, Ariel finds her way.
Ursula (Molly Howard) steals Ariel’s voice and King Triton’s kingdom, with the help of her henchmen, Flotsam (Emma Rosenberg) and Jetsam (Taylor-Rose Sadow). Howard commanded the stage when belting “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and held out the last note for the whole sea to hear. She also managed to weave in her own brand of comical wit to the villian.
After defeating Ursula through love, courage, and hope, Ariel and Eric have King Triton’s blessing to marry and the kingdom is restored to Triton once again. The show ends in a grand Disney song and kiss between Ariel and Eric, with the ensemble partying on stage for “Part of Your World (Finale).” There were bright lights and smiles all around. This production retained the classic, optimistic Disney feel while adding humor and heart – you will not be disappointed!
Review by Kaylen Chang, budding writer and acting student at Imagination Stage. Chang 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.