The seaweed is always greener on stage at the Walnut Street Theater with their latest live show, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story and the classic film, “The Little Mermaid” follows the plot of Ariel, whose curiosity of the human world leads to her being stranded above the water with no voice, and a challenge to find true love.
For this show, the Walnut utilizes its set department to the max — the stage is completely transformed into another world, one where we ourselves can take a peek into the deep sea and its inhabitants. Using other stage tricks to make some of the actors appear to swim up to the surface, fly and even skate, the show suspends disbelief for both children and adults. The cast’s constant swimming motion while under the sea also cements the dedication to make this children’s show as believable as it is creative.
Perhaps what is most remembered from the movie and past performances of the beloved story is the music. “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl,” and “Part of Your World” have been played regularly in audiences’ minds for years and heard all over as background music and even just every once in a while on the radio, so it comes to no surprise that the songs play the most memorable part in the Walnut’s show as well.
Utilizing the wonderful vocal talents of Diana Huey (who is making her Walnut debut as the lead role of Ariel), Sean Thompson as Prince Eric, Derrick Cobey (another Walnut newcomer) as King Triton, and WST acting apprentice alum Dana Orange who plays Sebastian. The latter performer takes the titular role of the stressed-out bright red crab and brings more humor than ever before.
However, while talking about standouts, what was perhaps the most delightful surprise was the lasting impact of Ursula’s slithering henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam played by Adam Hoyak and Jesse Jones. Although in the movie the two floating henchmen don’t make much of an impact, in the Walnut’s show their songs and their skills on rollerblades are memorable to say the least. Of course, they are just two parts of a trio. Ursula, played by Rebecca Robbins in her 19th production with the Walnut, is wonderful. Robbins continually makes her roles fun to watch, whether it’s being Paulette in Legally Blonde or as a sea witch in the form of an cecaelia (half human, half octopus) who does anything for more power.
Other key players in the production include actor Kevin Kulp as Ariel’s fish friend Flounder and Ellie Mooney as Scuttle, a seagull and “expert” on humans. Both are hilarious and bring a uniqueness to their performances. Ben Dribble also makes the role of the palace cook looking to make a meal out of Sebastian impressive, while Bill Van Horn helps bring the stern Grimsby to life.
The stage, however, is not just graced by adult performers, but also a younger slew of talent as well. It’s adorable and really fun.
But with all the talent, director Glenn Casale (along with an incredible set and costume department) was also able to bring out everything we love about the story: The colorful nature, the rip-roaring ensemble numbers, the coordination of standout costumes and timeless nostalgia of a show we all know and love — and it’s definitely worth taking a trip under the sea to see it.
Catch “The Little Mermaid” on stage at the Walnut Street Theater until Jan. 2.