‘Mermaid’ has Fiddlehead leaving Strand on high note

Jay Kelley as Sebastian (center) and ensemble performing  “Under the Sea.” Courtesy Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

Jay Kelley as Sebastian (center) and ensemble performing “Under the Sea.” Courtesy Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

DORCHESTER – Recycling can be very profitable.

That’s what Disney Theatericals learned as they took a series of Disney’s animated film hits and transformed them into theatrical blockbusters, aided by the music of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman.

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, is now onstage at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, and the Menken-Ashman-Glenn Slater score includes hits such as the Oscar-winning “Under The Sea,” “Part of your World,” and “Kiss The Girl.”

This “Mermaid” is a delight below the sea and on dry land, but It will be a bittersweet run for the Fiddlehead Theatre Company at the Strand, as the troupe is exiting the Dorchester theater after failing to attract a critical mass of theater-goers to the Uphams Corner facility.

Its next two productions – “Rent” from Feb. 5-21 and “Show Boat” from June 23-July 2 — will both be in Boston, at the Back Bay Events Center and the Citi Shubert Theatre, respectively.

The good news is that they are leaving on a high note, with a lovely production that’s right for all ages, and a positive message about bridging differences – and what can happen when you do.

Jesse Lynn Harte as Ariel, the mermaid who longs to explore the world of humans, was a little tentative at the beginning of a recent performance, but she warmed to the task quickly and ably handled the very physical demands of the role, as well as the singing, swimming, walking, etc.

Shana Dirik as Ursula the Sea Witch. Courtesy Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

Shana Dirik as Ursula the Sea Witch. Courtesy Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

Jared Troilo combines the leading man’s looks, voice and presence as Prince Eric, the human whom Ariel rescues from drowning who later makes it his mission in life to find her.

Andrew Giordano lends substance and style to the role of King Triton, the King of the Sea who sits uneasy on his watery throne because of the existence of Ursula (Shana Dirik), his estranged sister who has wreaked havoc with her powers derived from a magic shell.

Jay Kelley’s reggae-flavored crab Sebastian, trusted with – and failing miserably at – keeping Ariel out of trouble, gets not one but two vocal highlights– the aforementioned “Under The Sea” and “Kiss The Girl” – and delivers on both.

The fleshed-out score that added many songs from the film includes “If Only,” “The World Above,” and the “Les Poissons” with Andy Papas offering a nice comic turn as Chef Louis.

Shana Dirik is all in as the delightfully malevolent Ursula, who knocks her signature song – “Poor Unfortunate Soul” – out of the park not once, but twice.

Costume designer Stacey Stephens, who also directed, shows his customary theatrical flair and creativity in outfitting both the undersea and land-based characters.

The fishes, jellyfish, and other denizens of the sea smartly displayed by members of the cast were designed by New York-based Puppet Designer and Puppet Builder James Wojtal Jr.

The flying — or swimming, in this case –- effects were done by the renowned Flying By Foy. The production numbers are smartly staged with choreography by Kira Cowan-Troilo. with my favorite the flock of tap-dancing seagulls led by Eddy Cavazos as Scuttle in “Possitoovity” and “Possitaggity.”

Ironically, the sound problems that have hurt some past productions in the Strand appeared to have been largely solved during this production, with sound design credited to Brian McCoy, and Charles Peltz elegantly and ably conducts the orchestra.

Director Stephens has his customary eye for detail, and it shows throughout the production.

Fiddlehead has added some matinee performances for this run and “The Little Mermaid” is fine for all ages and a perfect way to introduce a younger one to the joys of live theater.

The Fiddlehead Theatre production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. Book by Dpug Wright, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater. Founding Producing Artistic Director: Meg Fofonoff Technical Director: Butch Foley Director & Costume Designer: Stacey Stephens  Music Director: Charles Peltz Choreographer: Kira Cowan Troilo Scenic Designer: Mac Young Lighting Designer: Zach Blane Sound Designer: Brian McCoy Hair and Makeup Design: Maya Landi At the Strand Theatre, Dorchester, through Dec. 6. http://www.fiddleheadtheatre.com.

 

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