Methacton Community Theater’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid
I had the opportunity to enjoy the second performance night of Methacton Community Theater’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid tonight at the Shannondell Performing Arts Theater in Audubon, PA, just 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia. I came to the show not knowing what to expect other than what I knew of the 1989 Disney film. I had not, in fact, seen a live production of this show before. I must confess, I was not disappointed. What a colorful, lively, and fun performance!
I’m sure anyone reading this already knows the story of “The Little Mermaid”, so I’ll keep the description brief. It’s your classic romance story, not dissimilar to Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story. Ariel, a mermaid of the deep falls in love with Prince Eric, a human. Ariel’s father, King Triton, hates humans and forbids Ariel to go to the surface, but headstrong and defiant, she disobeys. She makes a deal with Ursula, and evil sorceress, octopus, and her aunt, to trade her voice for legs so she can go on land to get the prince to fall in love with her and kiss her to complete the spell and make her human forever.
The show opened with their 12 piece orchestra, conducted by Raquel Garcia, playing the overture and setting the tone. I’m not sure why I was surprised by the power of the music, but I was. There was a small part of me that didn’t expect to see a dozen musicians in the pit for a community theater production. But, there they were, playing beautifully and moving the show along at a wonderful pace. I really enjoyed the fact that there were four keyboard players giving a fullness to their sound. Add that to the brass and woodwinds and pour on the percussion and you’ve got an orchestra worthy of any theatrical production.
As the curtains opened, a minimalist set came into view, with nothing more than a backdrop and some billowy fabric to mimic the water. You’d think it would easily lose your attention, but then, Ariel, played by Linsay Kulp, begins to sing and there is no turning back. Not only did she make a beautiful Ariel, but her voice was a show stopper. Prince Eric, played by Mitch King, held his own, with a powerful voice and royal good looks. Well cast in their roles.
Of course, I had other favorites of the night. Geoff Desiato in the role of Sebastian, the crab, was pretty darned amazing. He led two ensemble songs in the show that really were the best of the night for me. It wasn’t just about Desiato’s voice, which was wonderful. “Under the Sea” is such an iconic song from the film that I was worried they wouldn’t be able to do it justice, but the ensemble voices together gave me chills and the visuals during these numbers were just lovely. So much fun color and the cast was clearly having a good time on stage. I love how the costumes were so simple and yet so thoughtful. All the sea creatures and plants on stage really made a beautiful scene.
The only thing I would have changed was Ursula. Not that I think there was anything wrong with Laura Shapella’s performance. She was great. I just wanted her to be darker, somehow. Shapella was so pretty and sang so well. Maybe something a little darker in her make-up or hair. I don’t know. She just wasn’t evil enough for my tastes. But, the darkness did come out when she was singing.
One big surprise for me was the first song of Act 2, “Positoovity”, performed by Jaedto Smith-Lawson, as Scuttle, the seagull, and his bird buddies. The song was light and fun, but the dancing was on point. I wasn’t expecting a tap number and I absolutely loved it. Smith-Lawson was a great source of comic relief and his squawks made the whole audience laugh.
There were actually three cast members I wished I could have heard more. Flotsam & Jetsam, played by Katy Bondi & Elizabeth Kirsch, respectively, & Flounder, played during this performance by Clara Farrell, only had minimal songs to share, but they were, by far, my favorites. Farrell was a little powerhouse during the song “She’s in Love”. I sat right up in my seat when she started belting out her part. And Frenkel & Kirsh had some real chemistry and beautiful harmonies in their number “Sweet Child”.
All in all, I’d have to say MCT did a smashing job. How lucky we are to have a local community theater with such talented people. I might just have to go back again, since they have five more performances between now and July 23.
Full disclosure: Although we’ve never met before, I have a minor connection to this show’s director, Nicolette Adams. I went to college with her husband. Granted, I haven’t seen him since graduation 17 years ago. No matter, though. Mrs. Adams did a stupendous job with her direction and I can say this would have been my opinion even without our having this degree of separation.
Review by Em Kay Anderson
EmKay is a graduate of Kutztown University with a BFA in theatre, music, and writing. She’s worked in the theatrical and musical world from NYC to New Orleans. When she’s not at work, she enjoys seeing live theater and concerts, as well as baking and crafting and collecting vinyl records.