Review: ‘The Little Mermaid’ at Charm City Players by E. Lee Nicol

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Disney Magic rarely disappoints and the same can be said for Charm City Players.

Their latest full production of The Little Mermaid can be seen now through July 17, 2016 at the gorgeous Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium located on the campus of Mercy High School.

Brandon Shaw [in red] (Sebastian) and the Mersisters. Photo by Sydney Pope Photography.
Brandon Shaw [in red] (Sebastian) and the Mersisters. Photo by Sydney Pope Photography.
Everyone knows the story – Precocious girl, who happens to be a mermaid, longs for something other than her perceived dull, boring life.  In search of what’s “out there in the sun” she surfaces to help save a prince to shore after his ship has wrecked. Smitten by his handsome face, she realizes that this must be the one she is destined to be with and vows to gain his attention against her father’s wishes. In an attempt to get his love, she makes a deal with the “devil”, or in this case an evil Octopus, and must find her way to true love all on her own…and with the help of all of her sea friends, of course.

Though the familiar story unfolds with predictable flair, not everything is exactly the same as the 2-time Oscar winning movie from the genius pair of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.  f you’re an adult, you won’t even miss the differences, but the 7 year-old who knows the show by heart will be glad to tell you.

Speaking of the 7 year old, Charm City Players prides itself on family friendly, children’s introduction to theater. But don’t let that fool you – from start to finish, Charm City Players creates a venue and experience the whole family can enjoy. From the moment you walk in, kids are entertained by meeting some of the characters they will see later in their “natural habitat”, face painting, raffles, and the whole nine yards. They continue to do what other theaters lack, even before the curtain rises.

Curtain up! Magic begins! The lighting alone is unlike anything you have seen in Community Theatre. Children of all ages will be dazzled as the underwater scenes come to life. Director Stephen Napp has the professional knowledge to create entire scenes without a lot to distract you and comes up with some very imaginative lighting and staging. Jelly Fish glow, the costumes by Lynn Kellner, Jenifer Grundy Hollet, and Sandy Rybcyznski delight, and the sea characters actually glide across the floor, like fish glide through water.

We are first introduced to this underwater experience with King Triton, played by Joe Mannherz, and his beautifully talented daughters, the Mersisters. King Triton doesn’t come into his own until later in the show, but making his formidable debut with CCP, he is certainly someone to watch and enjoy.

Soon after we meet Sebastian, played by Brandon Shaw, who makes short order of a demanding role. He entertains with comic flair and a personality to get Sebastian into, and out of trouble throughout the show.

If you are expecting a true Ariel, Coreen Ayr Hamilton delivers. She looks, acts and sings the role beautifully. She carries herself well throughout the entire show, on land and in the sea.

Prince Eric, played by Chris Fotis, is visually what you might expect Prince Eric to be. He shines most when singing and does an admiral job trying to bring his character to life.

And, if you are looking for some evil in your characters, look no further than Ursula the sea witch, played by Jenifer Grundy Hollet, also making her CCP debut. From the moment she utters a sound or moves a tentacle, she takes the stage by storm. Her presence, attitude and voice are only matched by her gorgeous octopus costume. Ursula becomes a guilty pleasure, loving all that evil laid out in “Poor Unfortunates Souls,” let alone the rest of her evil doings.

Joe Mannherz (King Triton) and Coreen Ayr Hamilto (Ariel). Photo by Sydney Pope Photography.
Joe Mannherz (King Triton) and Coreen Ayr Hamilto (Ariel). Photo by Sydney Pope Photography.

Flip side to that evil, are two characters always at the ready helping Airel whenever possible, both from evil, and herself. Scuttle (James Gilbert) who offers a wonderful, ever-flappable, scatter-brained seagull friend who helps Ariel out of more than one jam. Even though his voice was recovering, he brought Scuttle to life with character choices that were both fun to watch and endearing to enjoy.

And Flounder, played by the now veteran actor Logan Dubel.  Dubel brings a spark to every role he takes on. A clear solid voice, a strong presence, and somewhat of an anchor to a cast of debut performers.

This review would not be complete without mentioning Chef Louis, played by B. Thomas Rinaldi who takes years of experience and delivers, without a doubt, the most entertaining, comical section of the show. Masterfully played, he captures even the adult’s attention, not to mention the kids who were already eating up everything this determined, funny chef cooks up.

One of the most beautiful pieces of music this score offers is “If Only (Quartet).” Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and King Triton (coming alive and claiming his place as the Father and Force you’d expect from King Triton) blend so well and emote so convincingly, it is the vocal number of the show.

The talented cast is a cast of thousands, as usual, so way too many to bring to the forefront, but be assured that with the great musical direction of Kathryn Weaver and her superb orchestra, and the ever amazing Jason M. Kimmell choreographing this show, complete with tapping seagulls, The Little Mermaid is a hit for everyone who sees it.

Charm City Players does justice to this show in what seems like an effortless success from start to finish. Imagine what they’ll dream up for their next season with shows devoted to Disney including Beauty and the Beast, an unnamed Disney Musical about a practically perfect Nanny, and Peter Pan.

Don’t miss a moment of the excitement!

Running Time: 2 1/2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

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The Little Mermaid has 2 more performances: this Saturday July 16th at 7:30 PM and Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 2 PM at Charm City Players – performing at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium at Mercy High School – 1300 East Northern Parkway, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online. Tickets are $15 include free pre-show face painting, arts and crafts, and more. Ariel’s Royal Tea is $30.