DISNEY’S THE LITTLE MERMAIDWritten by John Musker and Ron Clements
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film produced by Howard Ashman and John Musker
Originally produced by Disney Theatrical Productions
Plaza Theatre Company
Directors—Jodie and Soni Barrus
Music Director—Soni Barrus
Choreography – Nicole Wheat
Scenic Designer—Parker Barrus, Soni Barrus
Lighting Designer—Cameron Barrus
Sound Designer – G. Aaron Siler
Costume Designer – Tina Barrus
Prince Eric—David Midkiff
King Triton—Chris Wagner
Chef Louis/Pilot—Freddy Martinez Jr.
Flotsam—Megan A. Liles
Mersisters—Katherine Anthony, Chelsea Manning, Lena Moralez, Casey Covington, CC Weatherly, Madison Heaps, Brisa Wattleworth
Ensemble—Anna Looney, Alex Owens, Rylee Mullen, Alina Jennings, Josh McLemore, Nate Frederickson, Mimi Barrus, Kenlie Earheart, Ruth Power, Gavin Clark, Makenna Clark, Kaitlyn Coggin, Baylee Arledge, Samantha Bond, Madelyn Myers, Jessica Cope, Emily Bennett, Hope Arendse, Olivia Smith, David Arendse, Kendrick Booth, JJ Barrus, Kathryn Arendse
Reviewed Performance: 10/5/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Directors Jodie and Soni Barrus brought together a large ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these lively and enthusiastic characters. Their overall vision and concept was very impressive, it really was an upbeat and fun evening at the theater. I was impressed with the size of the cast, and the variety of ages represented in the cast, as well.
Set Designers Parker Barrus and Soni Barrus successfully transformed the theatre-in-the-round stage at Dudley Hall into several integral playing areas necessary to the story. I was totally brought into the world “under the sea.” Everywhere I looked, there were these fantastic little details that helped create the world of the story. If you have never been to a performance at Plaza Theatre Company, you will be surprised to discover that they are a theatre-in-the-round. In fact, they are one of the few arena theaters left in the area. Even after they have moved into their new location (located at the exquisite Dudley Hall), they have managed to keep the integrity of the arena space, while also adding large amounts of creativity to each production.
In this production, set designers Parker and Soni Barrus have done an excellent job of using the turntable on stage to give different views of the action to the audience. This was especially impressive when Ariel and Prince Eric were rowing a boat, as it gave the audience the allusion of movement, and provided each section of the audience with a consistent view of the action. Additionally, there were some very creative elements added to each scene. Elements of smoke, explosion and magic were interspersed with scenic elements through out the story.
Another impressive element was the large ship in the opening of the production. There were so many details that would have been lost if they had not been included. From the nautical ships lanterns, to the cannon, a large amount of time was evidently put into this element of set design. It was also thrilling to see the ship magically break apart into pieces like a puzzle, and disappear very magically.
Lighting was designed by Cameron Barrus. Barrus did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. It was lively, and aesthetically pleasing. As a frequent audience member, it continually amazes me how something as simple as a color can delineate and represent the entire mood and emotion of a scene. I felt that it was a very powerful use of visual imagery. Through the performance, Barrus’ cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the audience the impression of the mood of the scene. There was texture, aquatic movement, and a general playfulness with the lighting in each scene.
Tina Barrus designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the story (very bright and colorful) but had a fine attention to detail. From lots of glittery aquatic fish and sea creatures, to glow-in-the-dark electric eels, and an absolutely awe-inspiring Ursula costume (complete with a sparkly skirt with the stereotypical eight legs). The costumes were texturally pleasing, and provided a cohesiveness that was absolutely necessary in a production with so many individuals. The costumes were very bright and colorful, and really brought the characters to life.
Eden Barrus was incredibly believable in the role of the innocent teenage mermaid, Ariel. Through facial expressions and an incredible vocal range, Barrus convincingly portrayed the young Ariel, who longed to leave her life under the sea, and explore things on the surface. Miss Barrus’ enthusiasm and honesty on stage was a very true depiction of the quintessential Disney princess. She never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Miss Barrus had an incredible stage presence, a phenomenal voice, and genuine relationships on stage with her fellow characters. Miss Barrus was enjoyable to watch throughout the production.
Matt Victory was absolutely marvelous in the role of Sebastian, the servant of King Triton. As I have come to expect with all of Mr. Victory’s performances, it is evident that he truly puts 100% into all of his roles. Mr. Victory is dynamic, enthusiastic, and an absolute pleasure to watch on stage. Mr. Victory has a wonderful chemistry with actors on stage, and leads me to believe that he is having a genuinely fun time on stage doing what he loves to do. His facial expressions were very reminiscent of the anthropomorphic crab from the animated film. Mr. Victory was very energetic, upbeat, and his pizzaz never faltered. There was also the appropriate dose of humor rounding out his performance (you will get a kick out of his “crab-walk,”-as his escape from uncomfortable and sticky situations). Standout musical numbers from Mr. Victory include “Kiss the Girl,” and of course, “Under the Sea,” the largest number of the entire production. With every performance, you always give the audience the best theatrical experience, and always do so with heart. Bravo, Mr. Victory on an extraordinary performance.
Emily Warwick was remarkable in the role of Ursula, the Sea Witch. Through facial expressions, dialogue delivery, and an incredible vocal range, Ms. Warwick truly took the role of hideous animated villain, and gave a bit of old-fashioned Broadway and glamour to the role. Each time I see Ms. Warwick on stage, I know I am guaranteed a larger than life performance, complete with humor, and a talent for belting notes that would make the most experienced opera singer jealous. Her presence on stage is always constant, as she brings some of the most fun characters to life on stage. Ms. Warwick brings a little bit of old Broadway to North Texas, with her talents, her vivacity, and her energy.
Another standout was David Midkiff in the role of Prince Eric. Mr. Midkiff was very convincing as the young and handsome Prince Eric. Not only did Mr. Midkiff have a fantastic voice, but, his honesty on stage was most impressive. I expect to see this young man flourish in many areas of performances and in a variety of roles.
At this point in my review, I thought I might do something a little different. As The Little Mermaid is characterized as a children’s show (even though it is appropriate for all audiences), I would ask the opinion of the companion who attended the performance with me, and who better to ask than the opinion of a child, my eight year old son, Paul.
When asked his opinion of the performance, he stated, “I thought it was really good.” He seemed to really enjoy the costumes of Flotsam and Jetsam (the two evil electric eels who glowed in the dark), I believe his exact words were “Whoa! That’s awesome!” He stated that other kids would definitely enjoy the production, because of the cool costumes, and the fun songs sung by all the characters. It always brings a bit of proudness as a Mom when Paul observes and enjoys productions at the theatre. He is most definitely being brought up as a “theatre kid.” So, there you have it, out of the mouths of babes-another opinion of The Little Mermaid.
This production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the music begins, and those familiar songs of the Disney soundtrack flood the theater, you will become a part of Ariel’s world. This production does exactly what the theatre is intended to do-take audiences on a journey, allow an absence from reality and to entertain audiences with a bit of spectacle and magic. I highly recommend this production, it will delight and entertain audiences of all ages.
Plaza Theatre Company at Dudley Hall
305 S. Anglin St.
Cleburne, TX 76031
Plays through November 10, 2018.
Thursday-Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Tickets are $25.00 and $23.00 for seniors 65+, Students (high school/college) are $23.00, and children (12 and under) are $15.00.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.plaza-theatre.com or call their box office at 817-202-0600.