REVIEW | Disney's The Little Mermaid: The Broadway Musical

The ongoing Manila staging of Disney's The Little Mermaid's goal was to be the copy-paste of the wildly popular Disney animated feature film in 1989, which captivated the world with the brilliant music and lyrics by Alen Menken and Howard Ashman and its delightful Disney twist to the Little Mermaid story.

I saw the The Little Mermaid staging at The Meralco Theater yesterday. In the broadway musical, Rachelle Ann Go plays Ariel, and Erik Santos plays Prince Eric-- both debuting as Broadway musical actors.

Go sounded almost perfectly like Ariel, and her enthusiastic acting makes her just fine to watch. I am not sure, though, why they picked Erik Santos to play Prince Eric. He looks anything but a prince-- or an actor. He was awkward and self-conscious, and every time he delivers his lines, he sounded like a low-quality team leader in some obscure call center, making me suffer from secondhand embarrassment. He sings amazingly, sure, but the poor guy is frightened of speaking in English.

They were all excellent singers, the cast-- but not all of them were good actors. Notable excellent performers were Flounder, Prince Eric's royal assistant, and the French chef. Ariel and Ursula (played by Jinky Llamanzeres) were normal good theater actors and can fairly hook you with their performance. King Triton was just some points better than Erik Santos-- visibly self-conscious and monotonous, weak for the role of Triton. Sebastian, on the other hand, drove me up the walls with his excruciatingly annoying "Caribbean" accent and his self-conscious actions that scream: "I'm one hell of a crab, aren't I?" Because he was irritatingly corny and simply wrong for the role, he ruined one of the most beloved songs from the movie, "Under the Sea."

OJ Mariano as Sebastian has made me angry

The set design and the costumes were a visual feast-- particularly the "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" parts, magically bringing to life the enchanting scenes from the movie. Asian and Western puppetry were also used, including shadow and hand puppetry. Really charming.

The Little Mermaid bored me to restlessness. It felt like a school play with a huge budget and real, professional singers. Because there's nothing new. It's the exact same Disney movie. There were modifications, yes, but for practical purposes-- but there's nothing unique in the way they delivered the story. Same lines, same actions almost. I did not expect it to be different, though, since the Broadway musical title says it all: Disney's The Little Mermaid. Only it was too late when I realized that I wanted something new instead of a live rehash. Yes, I am a fan of the Disney movie-- but I was wrong when I thought I wanted to see the Broadway version. The whole time, I just wanted to go home and pop in a video of the animated movie. Or cross the street to McDonald's and grab some cheeseburger meal (which we actually did after the play).

If you're into the animated film so bad and would like to see it live, and the idea of singing along to "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea" with local theater actors appeal to you, then you'd surely enjoy the play because it will deliver just that. And if your kids are Little Mermaid fans, their childlike excitement will be rewarded as the play is a sight to behold.

Disney's The Little Mermaid: The Broadway Musical is a professional production. But if you're looking for something new and mentally stimulating, skip it. Because you can always play your DVD copy of the Disney movie whenever you're in the mood to sing "Part of Your World." *



The colorful cast





Disney's The Little Mermaid: The Broadway Musical at the Meralco Theater runs from November 18 to December 11, 2011. For more information, call 892-7078 or 840-1187 or visit www.atlantisproductionsinc.com.

All images from Disney's The Little Mermaid: The Broadway Musical's Facebook page.



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