Thursday, December 03, 2015

Fiddlehead Theatre Company Delights With A Perfect Adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" - Through December 6th at the Strand Theatre

I absolutely love the current Fiddlehead Theatre Company production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid."  It is delightful in every way - the music, the staging, the scenery, the costumes, the singing, the dancing, the flying/swimming and the squeals of delights from adults and children in the audience.  You may be aware that Fiddlehead Theatre Company has announced that this is their last production at the historic Strand Theatre.  They will be moving into the Theater District for their next productions of "Rent" at Back Bay Events Center (February 5-21, 2016) and "Show Boat" at The Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre (June 23-July 2, 2016).  They are leaving Dorchester on a high water mark, to be sure, as they set sail for new shores.

Director Stacey Stephens has cast a wide net in luring talented actors from local Boston waters as well as from more exotic and distant seas.  The resulting company is without a weak link - great voices, terrific and nuanced acting, and memorable stage presence across the board.  Alan Menken's lush music, Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater's clever and pun-filled lyrics and a coherent book by Doug Wright allow these talented performers to bait the hook, tell their stories, and reel in audience members so that we are caught up in caring about the destiny of each character - be they mortal landlubber, crustacean, fish, seagull or seagoing merfolk.  I will assume that most of the readers of The White Rhino Report are familiar with the basic outline of Hans Christian Anderson's tale that inspired this Disney adaptation.  Most of us were enchanted by the animated feature that graced movie screens a number of years ago.  This stage version is faithful to that original film in many ways, with some delightful additions.

Cast of Disney's "The Little Mermaid"
Fiddlehead Theatre Company
The Strand Theatre
Through December 6th
Allow me to highlight the performers and numbers that had my heart pumping and my head swimming:

  • Emerson student Jesse Lynn Harte is superb as Ariel, the mermaid who longs to live in "The World Above."  Her voice is reminiscent of Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel. That is high praise coming from me, since I adore her singing.  Ms. Harte adds layers of pathos to her character, so it is not just her gorgeous and crystal clear voice that lures us - and Prince Eric - but also her vulnerable and saucy spirit that makes her willing to follow her heart and defy her strict father, King Triton to pursue love with a human.   She shines in "Part of Your World" and "If Only - Ariel's Lament."
  • Prince Eric is played masterfully and regally by Jared Troilo.  As Mr. Troilo has done in each role I have seen him perform, he uses his lustrous singing voice as a foundation upon which he builds a credible and sympathetic character.  We are rooting for the Prince to find his true love and discover the girl who own the voice that enchanted him like a Siren's song.  When he sings "Her Voice," we are convinced that he has become hopelessly enchanted by Ariel's angelic voice.
  • Sebastian the Crab is played to perfection by the talented Jay Kelley, whose Jamaican heritage serves him well in the popular numbers "Under The Sea" and "Kiss The Girl."  His is an impressive and memorable performance.
  • King Triton as played majestically by Andrew Giordano, whose sumptuous bass voice fills the auditorium with resonant waves of sound. He is able to display his vocal prowess to great effect in "If Only - Triton's Lament." 
  • These four voices - Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and King Triton collaborate on a quartet that is the musical highlight of this show: "If Only."  The harmonies in this number, and the clever staging with each character having a prominent place to stand and sing, were so pure that I experienced a frisson of chills from the sheer joy of listening.  Bravo!
  • Scott Caron is wonderful as Flounder, the cautious, nebbishy and love-sick companion to Ariel whose love for her is painfully unrequited.  It is clear that for his solo number, "She's In Love," sung with Ariel's sisters, this fish has been practicing his scales, for he nailed every note.
  • As the evil and vengeful Ursula, Shana Dirik is deliciously malevolent.  She sweeps onto the stage in her outrageous costume that looks like a sea lily on steroids that has been irradiated with Strontium 90.  The outfit has been cleverly designed by Director/Costume Designer Stacey Stephens.  Along with her eely henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam, Ms. Dirik sings a wonderfully sardonic "Daddy's Little Angel" as she plots to entice Ariel into signing a Faustian contract to sell her voice and soul for the chance to live in The World Above.  She also delights inthe number "Poor Unfortunate Souls."
  • Flotsam (Chris Pittman) and Jetsam (Carl-Michale Ogle) are slippery Uriah Heeps, fawning on their mistress Ursula in creepy obsequious and servile humility.  They have their moment in the spotlight with the duet "Sweet Child."
  • Andy Papas as Chef Louis serves up a banquet of comic turns, full-bodied arabesques and operatic phrases as he inadvertently freaks out the about-to-be cannibalistic Ariel a feast of seafood as she is feted by the Prince.
  • Ariel's Mersisters are a motley crew, played with panache by the talented sextet of Becky Bass, Rebecca Frazier, Kara Nelson, hristy Coco, Ryoko Seta and Sarah Kawalek.  They stand out in their number "Daughters of Triton."
  • Other memorable contributions comes from Bryan Miner as Pilot, Ray O'Hare as Grimsby, Eddie Cavazos as Scuttle, Arthur Cuadros as Windward, Dougie Robbins as Leeward, and Kieron Cindric, Christhian Mancinas-Garcia and Andrew Winans as Sea Creatures and Sailors.
  • Special note must be given to the flawless flying/swimming effects by Flying by Foy.
  • Music Director Charles Peltz leads a 22-piece orchestra that captures the spirit of MEnken's music wonderfully, filling the Strand with catchy tunes and background music.
  • Mac Young has designed a set that works well, with simple but effective effects that allow us to suspend disbelief and imagine much of the action happening Under The Sea.
  • Choreography by Kira Cowan-Troilo is effective, as is Lighting by Zach Blane and Sound by Brian McCoy.
Jesse Lynn Harte as Ariel
Jared Troilo as PRince Eric
Disney's "The Little Mermaid"

Fiddlehead Theatre Company
The Strand Theatre
Through December 6th
There are only four remaining performances, beginning this evening and running through Sunday afternoon.  Set your compass for the Strand Theatre, and give yourself and some special loved ones and friends an early holiday gift.  Immerse yourself in the healing waters of this fabulous production of a delightful tale.  Don't become one of Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" by missing the boat on this wonderful show.

Shana Ririk as Ursula
Disney's "The Little Mermaid"

Fiddlehead Theatre Company
The Strand Theatre
Through December 6th
The Strand Theatre in Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner, located at 543 Columbia Road.  A free trolley service runs to and from the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, available by reservation only.  Tickets are available at with special discounts for seniors, students, and Dorchester residents. 

Fiddlehead Theatre Website




Niblu said...

Didn't Jodi Benson voice the little mermaid? I'm positive it wasn't Lea solanga. Awkward.

The White Rhino said...

Thank you for pointing out the error. I have made the correction.