To borrow a phrase from another Disney classic, it’s a tale as old as time. A precocious young girl wants to see the world and have new adventures, but her father wants to protect her from getting hurt. The girl, thinking she knows more than she does, gets herself in trouble, but Dad, who loves her even when she has disobeyed him, comes to the rescue.
If you have seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid, you know this is the story of Princess Ariel, played quite wonderfully by Naomi Potts in this Guild Builders production of The Little Mermaid Jr. The musical is adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson story and the Disney movie. Ms. Potts brings a real energy to her role. The audience finds itself rooting for her to get the boy, in this case Prince Eric, played ably by Devon Martin.
The cast of the show is filled with talented young men and women. It’s hard to believe everyone in the production is no more than in ninth grade, as the music and dancing are both well done. There is no question that the Actors Guild’s future is in good hands. Of particular note are the evil Ursula, played with glee by Athena Root; Sebastian, terrifically portrayed by Ellie Yeater; Scuttle the Seagull, portrayed admirably by Jack Peyton; and the relatively small part of Chef Louis, who really likes to cook fish, played delightfully by Samuel Watts. It seems almost unfair, however, to point out individual performances when this is such a strong ensemble cast. Every single part, from the sea creatures to the sailors to the chefs do an outstanding job.
Along with a strong, well-rehearsed cast, the costumes are colorful and creative. Audience members will see flounders (like Flounder, nicely portrayed by Kaleb Windland), sea gulls, starfish, blowfish, jellyfish, eels, and, of course, mermaids and mermen. Maggie Angle and her costuming crew are to be commended for their creativity and attention to detail in rendering such fun and effective costumes. A particular challenge is Ursula, who appears to be an evil octopus. Allowing Ms. Root to move around on set while still maintaining the look of large coiling cephalopod limbs had to be difficult, but the folks at the Guild seem to have built something that strikes the perfect balance between visual appeal and practicality.
The sets are also quite effective. As always, this Guild production overcomes the rather diminutive dimensions of the stage by going up when going out just isn’t possible. They also make great use of moving pieces and hidden doors to use single set pieces to depict multiple locations.
Director Linda Smith and her entire cast and crew are to be commended for putting together such a winning production. It is something everyone will enjoy, from children to adults, so make sure and get your tickets soon. Don’t hesitate, though—there are only six performances. Opening night is Friday, August 3 at 8:00 p.m., with subsequent evening performances on August 4, 10, and 11. Two matinee presentations are available on August 5 and 11 at 2:30 p.m. Contact the Guild for tickets. You’ll be glad you did!