Disney's The Little Mermaid.
Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater. Book by Doug Wright. Directed by Jordan Best. Musical direction Adam Bluhm. Choreography Jodi Hammond. Set design Ian Croker. Costume design Fiona Leach. Ickle Pickle Productions. Belconnen Theatre. January 10 – 25 2020. Bookings 0460 401 621.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
It is easy to see from Ickle Pickle’s Summer holiday production of Disney’s musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Little Mermaid why the show is such a favourite amongst Disney fans. Director Jordan Best has inspired a production that is infectiously joyous, brimming with delight and filling the unpretentious Belconnen Theatre with charming story and song.
Best is a consummate actor’s director, and she has managed to excite and inspire her largely young amateur cast to create lively and believable characters. Whether a principal or a member of the very large ensemble, each performer embraces his or her role with absolute relish. The production bursts with energy, wit and humour and an opening night audience largely comprising eagerly applauding friends and family quickly became thoroughly immersed in the story of sweet mermaid Ariel (Emily Pogson), who rescues Prince Eric (Ben Brown) from drowning and longs to join the human species in that part of the world above the water’s surface.
|Emily Pogson as Ariel in Ickle Pickle's The Little Mermaid
Pogson is enchanting in the central role of the youngest of the preening, envious daughters of King Triton ( Michael Jordan). She combines naïve innocence with heart-filled longing for a more natural life. She is supported by some very fine performances, most notably from Meaghan Stewart’s heavily accented and over the top crabby crustacean Sebastian, Jade Breen’s loyal and flustering Flounder, Janie Lawson’s devilish Ursula and her two wicked sea urchins, Flotsam (Jackie McIntyre) and Jetsam (Eliot Cleaves). Jack Morton is a scene stealing Scuttle with his wing flapping rendition of Positoovity and shrill glottal gull squawk. Joss Kent gives a comical performance as the poisson pulping Chef Louis to the bright and breezy accompaniment of Be Our Guest from Disney’s other poplar hit Beauty and the Beast. Throughout the show, there are moments that enthral and Best with her creative team makes the most of the simple imaginative devices and clever business to capture the charm of this beloved musical and maximise the talents of her large company, colourfully costumed in Fiona Leach’s inventive creations. Musical director Adam Bluhm and choreographer Jodi Hammond keep the musical and dance numbers exuberant and varied as the cast revel in calypso, tap and can-can.
Ickle Pickle, unlike the majority of music theatre companies in Canberra, has decided not to mike their singers. This allows for a purer, more natural and emotionally truer sound, but even in the intimacy of the Belconnen Theatre, untrained and less confident singers can lose the full impact of their musical numbers. Hopefully confidence and breathing techniques will develop the solo numbers more strongly as the season develops.
Ben Brown as Prince Eric Jack Morton as Scuttle and
Emily Pogson as Ariel in Ickle Pickle’s The Little Mermaid
The simple and imaginative staging of the Disney Musical, embellished by Sidestage Production’s colourful and mood enhancing lighting emphasises the underlying messages of the musical. Ariel seeks to be true to herself. King Triton harbours resentment against a human race that would damage and pollute the purity of his ocean world. Ursula’s bitter jealousy is a curse that will eventually destroy her and the worlds of earth, air and water can find a union in the love of Eric and Ariel. All because of the fascination with a fork and a storm at sea.
If the art of theatre is to entertain and educate, then Ickle Pickle’s heartwarming holiday production of The Little Mermaid is well worth coming to see what’s under the sea in that part of the world.