This past weekend I traveled to Windsor, Ontario, where I was very fortunate to see the musical The Little Mermaid, a production by the local Windsor Light Music Theatre. I was definitely excited to see the play, as I grew up with the Disney film and I could not wait to experience all of my favourite songs live. What I was not prepared for was how powerful, beautiful, and indeed magical this play really is.
Almost immediately I fell in love with the on-stage sets. From the blue-green backdrop to the painted vines that frame the stage, it truly felt as though I was looking through a window into an oceanic world. Quick set changes later, and I was in Ursula’s evil lair, rich with dark purples, jagged ocean rocks and made murky with fog sweeping across the stage. A few changes later and I was watching Ariel and Prince Eric floating in a blue lagoon filled with beautiful trees and fairy lights. I was incredibly impressed with how quickly cast members worked to change sets from one scene to the next, completely transforming the stage and yet creating the perfect environment in which to tell the story.
On top of the wonderful sets were the fabulous costumes created for the creatures of the play. Bright, colourful fish filled every corner and really helped to bring the ocean scene to life. There were also adorable little turtles with backpack shells, and elegant jellyfish floating around on pointe. The mermaids (and merman!) had wonderful costumes that did an amazing job suggesting both the shape and the movement of a mermaid’s tail. Ursula may have had the best, though, with her gorgeous costume that created the perfect look for the evil witch.
I absolutely love the story that was told through this musical. The play is not a direct reproduction of the Disney film, but actually has more content, including more songs and a more complex story line. My favourite additions centered around Prince Eric. He is given much more attention in the play, and his character becomes more rounded and interesting. He also sings some incredibly beautiful songs. As much as I love the original songs, I fell in love with these new ones, especially “One Step Closer” that showed how dancing together can say much more than a voice. I thought it was beautiful, and it created a much more genuine story between Ariel and Prince Eric.
Finally, and most importantly, is the wonderful cast that brought this story to life. Amber Thibert was perfect as Ariel, and she was matched with Aaron Bergeron-Grundy as Prince Eric – whose voice could definitely sweep me off my feet! 5th grader Caiden Finlay played Flounder, and with an impressive singing voice he was well deserved of the cheers that came from the audience. Added to their ensemble was Kristen Siapas, magnificent as the evil Ursula. My personal favourites were the two eels, Jetsam and Flotsam, played by real-life twins Anthony and Frank Piazza. They were every bit delightfully evil, from their costumes, to their voices, down to their every movement – they were, in a word, electric. The cast was rounded off with amazing dancers and singers, and together they created a wonderfully vibrant story.
The Little Mermaid could be called a little love story – but that would do no justice to the powerfully enchanting show that demands attention and delivers on every note. Every scene tops the last and builds to a finale that swept me away as though I had never heard the story before. It does not matter how wonderful I think the movie’s songs are – it is nothing compared to experiencing these songs live. I wish I could see this musical again, because only once was simply not enough to absorb everything that happens. I definitely recommend seeing this musical if you get the chance, and if you’re in the area check out Windsor Light Music Theatre for future plays!