note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Beverly Creasey
In my theater rounds of late, I’ve seen some delightful shows---with some standout performances I’d like to trumpet before they disappear: James Tallach is supplying plenty of suspense and sex appeal as the charismatic villain in the Concord Players’ THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL Timothy John Smith in Stoneham Theatre’s MY FAIR LADY gives a powerful, visceral performance as an unconventional Henry Higgins. Eric Hamel, in the same show, fiddles and whistles his way around Covent Garden, making the chorus numbers pop…And Riccardo Engerman adds hilarious pratfalls to the Wheelock Family Theatre’s energetic THE LITTLE MERMAID.
A fairy tale about humans and sea creatures living in harmony could not be more timely, given the current British Petroleum disaster which threatens the Gulf Coast. Linda Daugherty has fashioned the Hans Christian Anderson tale of THE LITTLE MERMAID into a sweet love story in a Shimmering Water World, and Wheelock makes the production kid friendly with lots of puppet fish and tiny lobster children to flesh out the story. (The Wheelock Family Theatre production swims through May 16th.)
Director/ set designer James P. Byrne’s clever ocean ripples with gossamer silk waves and billowing winds through which sail schools of silvery fish and a colony of mer-people. One particular mermaid dreams of becoming human and experiencing life “above.” Wheelock’s inventive production stars the charming Andrea Ross as the adventurous girl who saves a Prince from drowning and then makes a bargain with a witch to join him on land.
What makes WFT’s version work is the humor. The wee audience loved the sillier elements (like Ross splashing the humans or Ricardo Engermann’s spectacular pratfalls) and the older crowd giggled with admiration for Margaret Ann Brady’s spot on whale sounds. Jane Staab supplies the emotional heart of the story as the Great Sea Mother and Johnny Lee Davenport cuts quite a swath as the powerful King. Stacey Stephens’ imaginative costumes seem to flutter and float as the little mermaid and her sisters cavort in the water.