Disney's Little Mermaid

Date 17th June 2023
Society Springers Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Chelmsford Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Barry Miles
Musical Director Susannah Edom

Report

Author: Christine Davidson

From the very start it was clear that a great deal of hard work with the show had been carried out by this talented group. The set was indeed magical and helped us to feel that we were indeed seeing the Disney cartoon come to life in front of us on stage. Being built by the members,the set was incredible with three large circular cut out tabs, a huge projection cloth and a raised rostra. The projections which apparently cost more than a thousand pounds really added to the overall show, with the underwater sequences giving a wow factor. Absolutely beautiful!

Disney’s The Little Mermaid is based on one of the Hans Christian Anderson’s most beloved stories and the classic animated film. With music by eight-time Academy Award winner, Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and a compelling book by Doug Wright.

Lula Hemmings took on the title role of Ariel and was perfect. Beautiful to look at and with a perfect pitch singing voice that any mermaid would yearn for, she was superb. I have met this young lady when she directed an Offspringers show and have been struck by her energy and talent. I do hope she goes on to do more as she has a great deal to offer the theatrical world.

Her love interest was Prince Eric (Matt Scott). Handsome and with a strong singing voice, together they gave us the magic that was needed between the two of them. He also has previously directed with Lula, which just goes to show the level of talent that Springers produce.

Flounder (Maja Skoric) and Scuttle (Jack Funnell) were last seen on stage in the Offspringers production of The Adventures of Mr Toad. Excellent then, they again did real justice to their roles. I hope to see both of these young actors in future productions as they definitely have great presence and talent.

Simon Brett as Sebastian the crab played the role to perfection. With good comedy timing and excellent stage presence he rocked the red costume and make up. By the end he looked incredibly hot in his padded crab costume but he never let this be an encumbrance. One of my all-time favourite Disney songs is ‘Under the Sea’ which he did total justice. In this scene all the cast gradually came on stage with fantastic costumes and the little ones came up the aisles with transparent UV lit umbrellas, replicating jelly fish – a great effect!  Just one note, I would like to have seen the blocking a bit better, as I’m afraid by the time they got to the rostra, being small, with so many adults in huge costumes on stage, we could not see the jelly fish. This would have made the scene even more spectacular.

Chef Louis (Al Pitcher) came into the show with only four weeks to rehearse. Good pantomimic comedy here, a super voice and a visual delight.  First time with Springers and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Matt Smith as King Triton looked every inch the Sea King. Yet again a super costume. Strong in voice and stature he ruled the stage but I would have liked him to stop still sometimes rather than move aimlessly from one spot to another. Kings do not need to prove themselves; stand tall and make the minions work around you.

Grimsby (Dan Carlton) is a role that does not give the actor much to play with. Straight forward and sensible, he helps the Prince to find his love. Dan played this well and I do hope he gets to do more in future productions.

For me though the stand out performance of the evening was Lexy Phillips as Ursula. Wow what can I say. I have seen Lexy perform in countless shows but did not recognise this incredible Diva standing in all her Octopus glory on stage. Her voice has matured and she could hold her own in any West End show. She reminded me of the Killer Queen in “We Will Rock You”. Lexy you were superb!!

Her minions were the two electric eels – Flotsam (Sophia Harrop) and Jetsam (Emily Peplow). Hissing and slithering on stage, they were very impressive, never dropping their characters throughout the entire show.

The Mersisters in their beautiful colourful costumes gave us strong vocals and glided on stage with sparkly Heelys. I did wonder if this was a good idea as only sometimes did the illusion seem to work. Some seemed to be not too confident on them. Good idea but maybe a little more work for everyone to be happy to do it??

The Ensemble were good although sometimes I felt that they needed a little more guidance from the director, but I do understand the time limits of getting everyone blocked on the stage after months in a hall rehearsing.

Make up and costume were excellent and must have cost a fortune to hire but gave us the Disney cartoon look that we love to see.

Musical Director Susannah Edom with her orchestra of twelve never drowned out the excellent singing and added to the magic of the evening.

Sound was ok although I was not sure about the underwater noises while a ship went overhead when Ariel was down in the depths of the sea. I did wonder what an earth it was at the beginning.

This show was a big technical challenge and clearly compromises were needed given the time constraints to get this show in, however sometimes members of the cast were in shadow, particularly stage left, stage right and while actors moved upstage to downstage  - suffering lighting cut-off. I think that this distracted from the quality of the effects. This was only a small niggle on what was a very good technical production.

Crew were quick and worked hard backstage but sometimes came on in full light which meant you came out of your magic bubble and lost the suspension of disbelief.

This show took us all on a magical journey and looking at the children in the seats in front of us - they were spell-bound, totally absorbed and never moved once. What a shame after so much hard work from all the cast and crew that they only had half full houses. This show would have been a great one for half term or Christmas when the children could stay up late to come and watch.

Thank you so much for your kind hospitality, for the meeting with Director Barry Miles and his AD Gary Jarvis. Congratulations to all for your hard work on this production – well done!.

 

Christine Davidson

Noda District 8