Review: ‘The Little Mermaid’ at Glyndon Area Players

Look at it all, look how it gleams! Glyndon Area Players’ (GAP) 2016 production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is certainly somewhere beyond my wildest dreams! Playing through this Sunday, August 7th at Sacred Heart Church in Glyndon, MD, the singing, sets, and stars are entertaining as GAP’s shining reputation would have audiences expect!

Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a story of teenage angst, family drama, magic, sacrifice, and true love that, despite its beginning as a Hans Christian Andersen tale in 1836, still resonates with 21st century audiences. The Broadway musical, expanding on the story told in Disney’s 1989 animated feature, ran in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre from 2008 – 2012.

With music by Alan Menken, how could it not be an immediate hit?! Well-known songs such as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” take the audience through Ariel’s plight of forbidden love (with a human, no less!) and exciting adventure, while new additions such as “She’s In Love,” “Her Voice,” “Positoovity,” and “If Only” expand upon supporting character development and give a new and fun spin on this exciting tale.

Ilyssa Rubin (Ariel) and Emilio Bayarena (right) as Prince Eric. Ilyssa Rubin (Ariel) and Emilio Bayarena (right) as Prince Eric. Photo by Kimberly Schlaugh of TwentySeven Photography.
Ilyssa Rubin (Ariel) and Emilio Bayarena (right) as Prince Eric. Photo by Kimberlee Schlauch 3TwentySeven Photography.

As always, Glyndon’s tradition of finding and utilizing new talent is in full effect for this performance. Ilyssa Rubin’s portrayal of Ariel is a knockout – with nary a sour note in earshot, her excitement, sweetness, and enthusiasm shine through in every song and scene, whether she has her voice or not! Her love scenes with Prince Eric (impressively played by Emilio Bayarena) are both heartfelt and authentic. From plaintive notes in the “Part of Your World Reprise” to the quick excitement of “Beyond My Wildest Dreams,” Ariel’s stage presence and lovely vocals are the highlight of the production.

A close second is the wildly entertaining and surprisingly caring Sebastian, played in the opening night performance by Raph Paredes. His authentic accent, impressive vocals, and hysterical dance moves are fun for audience members of all ages! Particularly impressive is his energetic rendition of “Under the Sea”, where he stands out as the leader of a “great crustacean band” who has the audience clapping and dancing in their seats right along with them.

The audience is clearly in love – pounding heart! Ringing bells! – with the younger stars of the show as well. Ian Jones as Flounder is the perfect combination of mature companion and crushing preteen, and his solo in the song “She’s in Love” is an instant favorite.

Lucy and Cecelia DeBaugh as Ursula’s minions Flotsam and Jetsam are phenomenal. Their menacing elongated “ssssss’s” and perfectly choreographed dance moves (nod to choreographer, Maia DeBaugh, whose talent for knowing exactly how to best showcase an entire cast and smaller groups equally well is once again flawlessly demonstrated throughout the entire show, but particularly in “Under the Sea” and “She’s in Love”) create an enchanting view as the audience falls in love with their sassy comments and sinister seduction of Ariel into the Sea Witch’s lair.

Lucy and Cecelia DeBaugh (Flotsam and Jetsam) and Kate Lemon (Ursula). Photo by Kimberly Schlaugh of TwentySeven Photography.
Lucy and Cecelia DeBaugh (Flotsam and Jetsam) and Kate Lemon (Ursula). Photo by Kimberlee Schlauch 3TwentySeven Photography.

Speaking of the Sea Witch… holy vocals, Triton! Kat Lemon as Ursula is salty, seductive, scintillating, and shrewd. Her performance took my breath away; she plays both the wounded daughter and the evil sea witch with equally convincing gusto and aplomb. Her belting notes in “Poor Unfortunate Souls” are utterly impeccable – Ms. Lemon does not need to steal Ariel’s voice to have a show-stopping performance.

Although the cast as a whole is simply phenomenal, there are two more standout performances in my mind –Willem Rogers as Scuttle and Tom Zepp as Chef Louis. Rogers, coming off of a spectacular performance as Pinocchio in last year’s Shrek, brings physical comedy to the production and perfectly portrays Scuttle’s chivalrous confusion in his scenes and his song, “Positoovity.” Zepp, after two years of playing the lead (Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and Shrek in Shrek), shows his versatility and comedy chops as the slightly obsessive and overly excitable Chef Louie. Both performances are worth the wait for these one-song wonders!

As always, GAP wow’s with top-notch musicians and scenery. Music Director Andrew Zile outdoes himself; the orchestra is beautifully balanced with the vocals, which are, as expected, exquisite.

Casey Gomes (King Triton) and Ralph Paredes (right) as Sebastian. Photo by Peggy Lawson Dryden.
Casey Gomes (King Triton) and Ralph Paredes (right) as Sebastian. Photo by Peggy Lawson Dryden.

The set, presumably a combination brainchild of Director Henry Cyr, Assistant Director Teresa Ertel, Creative Director Homero Bayarena, and Technical Director Michael Parks, is beautifully decorated and transitions seamlessly from Storm-tossed seas to Triton’s kingdom to Ariel’s underwater grotto to the seashore to Prince Eric’s elegant palace.

GAP is well-known for their little touches that make the scenes more realistic and life-like, and once again, they deliver. The orchestra plays in front of flawless underwater plants, Prince Eric captains a ship with a realistic masthead, and Scuttle’s rocks are delightfully detailed. One favorite touch of mine is when, during “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, small “creatures” come out of the holes in Ursula’s lair and move along to the music. Such a clever and simple touch is one of the many that bring the show together!

From Fathoms Below to the Finale, the company of Glyndon Area Players has once again delivered an impressive show full of fun characters, exciting scenery, lovely vocals, and most of all, a clear and undeniable love of theatre and desire to bring the community together. If only I could make time stop for more performances of The Little Mermaid. Believe me, I would try!

Running Time: Approximately three hours, with an intermission.

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The Little Mermaid plays through this Sunday, August 7, 2016 at Glyndon Players performing at Sacred Heart School Auditorium – 63 Sacred Heart Lane, in Glyndon, MD. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.

Remaining performance are:
Tonight, August 4th at 7:30 PM
Friday, August 5th at 8 PM
Saturday, August 6th at 2 PM
Saturday, August 6th at 8 PM
Sunday, August 7th at 2 PM

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1553.gif