I am a 44-year old playwright. I spent eight years in NYC working in the theatre and I have very little use for most things Disney (except Coco. I really love Coco). So why would I go see The Little Mermaid? Great question. Simple answer… I have a little girl in my life and if that's what it takes to expose her to the magic of the stage, then I'd even sit through a production of Cats. So while I certainly have my thoughts on this musical and this production, I feel it would far more appropriate and interesting to look at it through the eyes of Alora.
Alora is an eight-year-old girl with a vivid imagination and when I asked her about her experience seeing The Little Mermaid, these were some of her responses…
"Good. Good. I liked the amount of talking and singing. It was a good amount of talking and not all singing. My favorite songs were "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea". My favorite character was The Little Mermaid [a.k.a. Ariel] and my favorite part about the character was the actor. I liked The Little Mermaid’s flying. Is that real flying? Can she really fly? I thought the story was good, it was great… I give it 100 points. I also liked Sebastian and how he sang the song "Under the Sea." Seeing The Little Mermaid in Seattle is sooooo cool. It felt more good than the other show [while Sondheim is more to my liking, it turns out he doesn't play as well with 8 year olds]. Ursula was so scary but I liked how it ended. It was so cool."
Alora was very interested in my typing and at one point decided she wanted to type the name of the actress who played Ariel:
dianhuey -- alora
…she missed an a, but I'm hoping Diana will understand. She also felt it necessary to type her name after as a sort of sign off.
When asked if she liked the romance in the show she spat out an initial "Yuck!," but after some twisting of the arm, but she confessed that she liked when The Little Mermaid fluttered her eyes and puckered her lips, trying to get the Prince to kiss her (this was accompanied by an spot-on demonstration). When I asked if she wanted the Prince to kiss Ariel she reluctantly admitted, "Yeeeaah." I didn't need her to tell me this, I was watching her reactions during the romantic moments and it seemed like she was getting a little swept away. While I am conflicted on the way Disney sells romance, seeing her excitement during "Kiss the Girl" was pretty endearing. We'll just put a pin in that and save some conversations about reality for a later date.
At this point, apparently not completely comprehending the purpose of this review, Alora broke out into song and wanted me to write down how she was singing… I shall indulge. She is joyful. She is happy. She makes bold and sweeping gestures. The songs touch on feelings she can relate to and she emotes with great passion.
"La la la, What is this stuff. Isn't it neat. What is that? It is my friend fish. My friend fish talks. What is this stuff. La, la, la… The actor is me. The actor is me, Alora Dagnino!" I should note, English is Alora's second language and she only started learning it this January. I wish my Spanish had come so quickly.
The affect that this production had on our little girl was self-evident. She's never seen the movie but she retained so much of the music and sings the songs back, adding a lot of her own words as you may have noticed, but getting the melody basically right. This is after seeing it once, so it clearly left an impression. She walks around acting out the scenes and assigning roles to the dogs in our house. The dogs have had a mixed appreciation for her determined direction.
We probably could have gone on like that for a while, but it was a school night and she needed to take a bath. So, did I have thoughts… sure. I almost always have thoughts where theatre is concerned but they would likely bore you here. Though I will note that Coleman Cummings was exceptionally good as Prince Eric… not the first role you would think of as standing out, but he was on point and I'd like to see him in another role someday. That being said, if you’re one who enjoys the wonderful world of Disney, I would recommend seeing this production, particularly if you have young children. I would also recommend having a little girl, if you’re so inclined to have children in your life. As it turns out, they're pretty awesome. - Alora Dagnino & CJT