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Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr” captivates YTN audiences
By Karin Davies
Special to the Reporter
Ariel, a young mermaid, is dissatisfied with her life under the sea, and longs to live with humans who dance and leave footprints in the sand. After falling in love with a handsome prince she saves from drowning, Ariel decides to follow her heart in defiance of her family’s wishes. She strikes a dangerous deal with Ursula, a sea witch, to get to land. Ariel has just three days to win the heart of Prince Eric or she will lose her legs, her soul and her voice forever. And Ursula may get what she truly desires – power over the seas.
Loosely based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” is enchantingly performed at Youth Theatre Northwest. The talented and energetic cast of 31 actors is 9 to 17 years old, ages when dreams like Ariel’s are dreamed.
The show, artfully directed by Kim Douthit, delights during toe-tapping songs with strong solos and an ensemble that metamorphoses from birds to undersea creatures to stormy waves to chefs with the imaginative choreography by Hillary Gault.
“Under the Sea” features a marvelous array of ocean creatures, including a manta ray and a jellyfish, dressed up in shimmering fabrics, headdresses of coral and sea spray, and funny fins all designed by Heather Shannon Culver.
The Seagulls (Angie Osman, Caroline Atkinson, Lauren Bouju Davies and Natalie Jewett) and the flight-goggled Scuttle (Emma Lerner) are a standout act with their fancy footwork, birdlike preening and raucous cries of “awwwk!” in “Human Stuff.” They sport bowler hats, feathery sleeves, and orange bowties and stockings. All are from Mercer Island.
The role of Ariel is played in alternating performances by Chelsea Springman and Hannah Conradt. Both sing the role beautifully, particularly in their solos “Part of Your World.” Douthit wisely encouraged each actress to play to her own strength. Springman’s Ariel is confident and rebellious, while Conradt’s is romantic and zany. Conradt is a student at MIHS.
In the role of Prince Eric, Connor McKenna sings “One Step Closer” with charm to make a princess glad she traded her fins for feet. He also has a talent for comedy, eliciting laughs at unexpected moments.
Madeline Dalton outshines her sparkly gown as Ursula. Her powerful voice soars through the theater in “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and in her nuanced performance she’s alternately conniving, helpful and just the right amount of scary. Her hair is coiled and gelled into tentacles, and, in a climactic scene, her dress unfurls in undulating tentacles. Ursula’s evil eel operatives Flotsam and Jetsam (Rory Willard and Katie Parkinson, both of Mercer Island) evoke their characters as they move sinuously across the stage.
As Queen Triton (yes, the king is a queen in this rendition) Olivia Cranston is at once a powerful ruler and a fretful mother who worries about her youngest daughter, Ariel, who is “stubborn as a barnacle.”
Islander Rian Sherper, backed by singing and dancing chefs, is a hilariously menacing as the cleaver-wielding Chef Louis. Happily, Ariel’s chaperone, Sebastian the crab, escapes the cooking pot in a chaotic chase scene because Yasmeen Gaber’s voice pure pleasure, particularly as she sings “Kiss the Girl.” The Mercer Island student also delivers amusing one liners such as, “Teenagers, give them an inch and they swim all over you.”
The Mersisters’ (Shelley Dean, Claire Ingalls, Annie Lofton, Annika Evens, Kendall Baebler and Kari Anderson) sing and dance together beautifully for “Daughters of Triton” and “She’s in Love.” Evens and Anderson live on the Island.
Other Islanders performing in the play are Amanda Wion as Flounder; Annika Bhananker, Caroline Douglass, Kayla Mitchell, Pearce Newman and Olivia Wallin in the ensemble; Hannah Stewart as Carlotta; and Katie Stoops as Grimsby. Jenny Cook appears as the Seahorse, and Kayla North pilots Prince Eric’s ship. Both are from Bellevue.
Set designer Rick Lorig makes excellent use of the stage, placing Prince Eric’s ship in one balcony, and Ursula’s eerie lair in another. Ariel’s treasure trove of “human stuff” is tucked in a corner. The mainstage backdrop is a seascape that becomes a landscape with clever lighting by Emily Leong.
Youth Theatre Northwest, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, for the first time welcomed two former child actors back to the mainstage in production roles, Douthit and Gault.
Musical direction is by Julie Anne Parsons. The show features a live orchestra, including student talent, and is directed by Heather MacLaughlin Garbes.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.”
Youth Theatre Northwest, 8805 SE 40th Street, Mercer Island
Through Feb. 9, 2014
Fridays and Saturdays at 7
Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Runtime is about 1 ½ hours with
Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for
For tickets, call (206) 232-4145, ext. 109, or visit www.YouthTheatre.org