‘Little Mermaid’ … big hit

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2013

There is an ocean of talent on the stage of the Norvell Theater. Piedmont Players Theater’s youth production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” opened on Thursday with a splash.
Deep in the sea of the Merfolk’s Kingdom swims an immensely talented cast of mermaids, crustaceans and other lovable sea creatures. Add a prince, some sailors, a sea witch and an annoying sea gull and you have a tidal wave of entertainment.
With a cast of 34 youth, it was a pleasure to see so many newcomers to the Norvell stage, including two of the main characters, Lizzie Medlin as Ariel and Alexa Hendrickson as Ursula.
Medlin’s sweet and perfect, yet breathtaking performance as Ariel is the closest you will find to an actual Disney princess. It is almost as if director Gwen Matthews borrowed her from Disney itself. Her rendition of “Part of Your World” in Act I, along with all of her other numbers, will leave you awestruck.
With every fairy tale comes a villainess, with this production being no different. Hendrickson portrays Ursula with a booming voice and a manipulative personality. Watching her maneuver across the stage with her tentacles in motion was quite a sight.
Along with the sweetness and the bitterness comes humor. There are two comedic characters that guarantee laughter: Scuttle, played by Susannah Dixon and Chef Louis, played by Jacob Hammill. Scuttle appears throughout the show delivering her know-it-all attitude, yet is clearly clueless. Chef Louis, although a minor character, takes charge of one musical scene filled with chaotic comedy in the kitchen.
Every princess has her typical prince. Tall, dark-haired and handsome, Anthony Cataldo fits the role of Prince Eric just like every little girl dreams of.
Of course, “The Little Mermaid” story would not be complete without Sebastian (William Clark) and Flounder (Micah Cross). Clark’s performance definitely reflects the amount of time devoted to developing this Caribbean character. From his accent to his crab walk, he presents a polished and extremely charismatic Sebastian. Cross’s Flounder is absolutely adorable. There is no doubt that he will steal your heart during “She’s In Love” in Act II.
Set designer Reid Leonard has outdone himself with this production, receiving credit for the set, lights and costume designs. I have never seen a youth theater set as extravagant as this. His contributions to the success of this show include a moving ship, Ariel’s grotto, Ursula’s lair, and King Triton’s kingdom equipped with black lights and neon paint.
Director/choreographer Matthews has pulled off her most brilliant production yet. Her ability to teach youth actors graceful stage presence through beautiful body movements and dance routines is unbelievable. Fine details such as the motions of the slithering eels and the elegant mermaids make this underwater fantasy appear to be just that: underwater.
Musical director Laurie Klaus should be quite proud of this final product. She has done a beautiful job with these actors’ voices and her time and dedication to this show is obvious.
This production as a whole stays true to what one would expect of this Disney classic. With a running time of 90 minutes and a 10-minute intermission, this show is suitable for adults and children of all ages. You do not want to miss the chance to be part of this world. But you better not wait! Half of the shows have already sold out, and the others will soon follow.
“The Little Mermaid, Jr.” continues at the Norvell Theater this Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with an evening show Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and next Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a final matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. For tickets call 704-633-5471 or stop by the Norvell Box Office at 135 E. Fisher St.