Review: ‘The Little Mermaid’ at Damascus Theatre Company

Both “Under the Sea” and in “The World Above,” Damascus Theatre Company brings us a truly charming production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Based on the Hans Cristian Andersen story and the Disney movie of the same name, this delightful musical fairy tale features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and book by Doug Wright. With Director Shelly Horn at the helm, Keith Tittermary and Paul Rossen providing the musical direction, and Choreographer Cheryl J. Campo, The Little Mermaid doles out generous helpings of fun for all ages.

Brian Lyons-Burke & Becca Sears. Photograph by Elli Swink.

While the plot is basically formulaic (a Cinderella-esque boy meets girl), it has some wonderful twists. We are introduced to a society of mermen and mermaids living on the ocean floor who apparently have the same conflicts and prejudices as we humans do. Ariel (Kendall Sigman) is a young mermaid who is fascinated by humans and often swims to the surface to add to her collection of human souvenirs. Her father, King Triton (Brian Lyons-Burke), hates humans and believes them to be savages. Ursula (Becca Sears), the King’s sister who has been exiled for practicing black magic, orders her henchmen Flotsam (Nick Cox) and Jetsam (Noah Haren) to stalk Ariel, believing her niece can help her get her crown back and get revenge against her brother.

Meanwhile, the head-turningly handsome Prince Eric (Kevin James Logan) and his advisor Grimsby (Ernie Poland) are aboard Eric’s ship, discussing the “rumor” that there is an entire race of “merfolk” who live beneath the surface of the water ruled by the King of the Ocean. Grimsby rejects the rumor as mere superstition and wants the Prince to return home and claim his throne. However, Prince Eric hears a beautiful voice that draws him to the sea and he must follow.

Suddenly, there’s a storm and Prince Eric is blown overboard. While swimming on the surface, Ariel rescues him and drags him safely to shore. You guessed it; Ariel falls in love, and even though she must return home before the Prince is fully conscious, she is determined to be reunited with the object of her affections. So, she makes a Faustian bargain with Ursula. She will become human for three days and, if she can win Eric’s love, she will become human permanently. If she fails, her soul will belong to Ursula forever.

This production features amazing individual performances and fantastic ensemble work! Kendall Sigman as Ariel has a sweet, beautiful voice and plays the role as a wistful ingénue yearning to discover a new world beyond the sea. She evinces that yearning as she solos on “The World Above” and again in the haunting ballad “Part of Your World.”

Prince Eric is portrayed by Kevin James Logan as an idealistic, thoroughly decent young man who doesn’t want to get married until he can find a woman who shares his love of the sea. Logan sings “Her Voice,” the most romantic ballad in the show, where his own impressive tenor voice and vocal dynamics are on display.

Kendall Sigman. Photograph by Elli Swink.

William Jeffreys as Sebastian the crab steals every scene that he is in. Sebastian is the King’s assistant and is constantly frustrated by Ariel’s adventurism. Jeffreys’ rich voice and comedy timing are absolutely fabulous as he gets involved with one hilarious, slapstick ploy after another to get the Prince to fall in love with Ariel and sings “Kiss the Girl.” He also leads the ensemble in the show-stopping calypso production number “Under the Sea.”

Ursula the Sea-Witch, deliciously played by Becca Sears, has an incredibly strong voice as she belts out the klezmer tune “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and the sarcastic “Daddy’s Little Angel.” Speaking of strong voices, Brian Lyons-Burke as the King, has an appropriately powerful voice that belies a tender heart as he sings “If Only.”

Chef Louis, played by Keith Tittermary, is hysterically funny as he sings and pantomimes to “Les Poissons” and brings the house down. Another talented comedic character is Scuttle, played by Jason Douds. As an optimistic seagull who butchers the English language, Scuttle leads his fellow gulls in a delightful tap number “Positoovity.”

Ariel’s “mersisters” are six ensemble members who are as talented as they are funny. They sing the mocking “She’s in Love” with fabulous harmony. They are joined by Nick Ramirez as Flounder, a young boy who is secretly in love with Ariel, for a rock-and-roll dance number.

Kudos to Costumer Designer Laurie Williams for unbelievably clever, colorful, and hilarious costumes. They include elegant sequins and feathers along with fish hats and claw gloves. And the cleverest trick of all is putting glide wheels on the shoes so the sea creatures can “swim.” Set Designer Bill Brown outdoes himself with wonderfully effective set pieces and a projection screen upstage. Accompaniment is ably and unobtrusively provided by a talented 10-piece orchestra conducted by Keith Tittermary.

If you enjoy a fanciful love story, with first-class performances, beautiful singing voices, quirky, hilarious characters, and a good-natured life lesson that is appropriate for the whole family—and who doesn’t?—you will love Damascus Theatre Company’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid!

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid plays through November 19, 2017, at Damascus Theatre Company performing at Carl Freeman Auditorium at Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.

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Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell
The most important thing about Paul M. Bessel is that on January 1, 2011, he married the most wonderful woman in the world, who helped him expand his enjoyment of theater. (The first show he remembers was Fiorello! when he was ten, wearing his first suit.) He and his wife now attend as many musicals, history seminars, and concerts as possible, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 a week, enjoying retirement and the joys of finding love late in life, and going on unconventionally romantic dates such as exhibits of mummies and lectures on parliamentary procedure. They live in Leisure World of Maryland and in addition to going to theaters as often as they can they are active together in community and local political organizations. Barbara Braswell grew up in Newport RI, where Jackie Kennedy once bought her an ice cream cone. She has been interested in theatre her whole life. While pursuing a 33-year career with the U.S. Department of Transportation — helping states build highways, including H-3 in Hawaii, where Barbara helped arrange for a shaman to bless the highway — she attended as many shows as possible on her own, with her late mother, and now with her husband. Now retired, she devotes a great deal of time to theatre, community and local political meetings, and having as much fun as possible.


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