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Thursday Treasures

October 20, 2011

Snarfblatts and Dinglehoppers

By: Mariel G.

Dear Early Nineties, I miss your neon colored windbreakers, out of place fanny packs, and old school music stylings by that Philly guy that moved to Bel Air. What a time that was for the last batch of pre-internet, cell-phone-less, pre-Pixar-movies children. Back in 1990, one particular munchkin wanted nothing more than to venture the colorful depths of the Pacific Ocean, sing 'Part of Your World' out of tune twelve times a week, and have effortlessly voluminous red hair. Sadly that last part never became reality, not even in synthetic wig form.

Fast forward to a crisp autumn evening in 2008; after a small absence, six-year-old Mariel and four-year-old Reuben made cameos in the mezzanine of the acclaimed Broadway theater, Lunt-Fontanne. 'The Voyage of the Little Mermaid' musical kicked off with a gripping, orchestral rendition of 'Fathoms Below,' during which the illustrious Prince Eric proved for the first time that he had singing chops. Ariel's angelic voice soon captured the prince and his crew's attention; and my bro and I were happily lost at sea. Even though the mermaid and prince went by Sierra Bogess and Sean Palmer by day, they were the honest to goodness Ariel and Eric by night.

The show I've been waiting to see all my life!

Ursula (aka the incomparable Sherie Rene Scott) and her slinky minions, Flotsam and Jetsam, reeled us into their dark, witty realm with their jazz inspired melody, 'I Want the Good Times Back.' After the show-stopping number, a thunderous roar of audience applause lasted so long that Ursula broke the fourth wall, took a bow, and dictated for a cease and desist on the clapping. It's not surprising that a similar thunder engulfed the air following her 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' number. The evil sorceress' droll, witty intelligence and incredible voice are what earned her the title of my favorite lead character of the show. Plus, with Sherie Rene Scott in the role, it's difficult to not be amazed.

Flounder, Scuttle, Chef Louis, and Sebastian are the unsung heroes of the show. Carrying most of the comedic weight, the quartet elicited laughter as often as Sebastian said the word teenagers. Scuttle and Chef Louis' solos shocked quite a few in the audience, seeing as the characters had small bits in the movies. Many were as taken as I by the young Trevor Braun and his amazing singing talent, despite his young age. And Titus Burgess brought the audience to their feet at curtain call for his brilliant rendition of 'Under the Sea.'

Almost inside and so stoked by the playbill.

Alan Menken's newly penned melodies for the Broadway show are the crowning glories and push the familiar mermaid-turned-human story to a new level. From Scuttle to Flounder to Chef Louis, each of the characters are given new depths through witty lyrics and musicality that make you want to dance right there in the theater. Prince Eric shines as more than a prince who saves the day. Through the moving songs of 'Her Voice,' 'One Step Closer,' and 'If Only,' the audience is able to view a multitude of layers to Eric and the journey of Ariel and Eric's romance is even more endearing. 'One Step Closer' was definitely my favorite of the three songs, as it shows Eric's compassion for a stranger who cannot talk and his ability to understand a person through more than just words; but also through expressions, motions, and dance.

As if the beautiful songs weren't enough, the costumes, sets, and effects of the show dazzled brightly and contributed to the realism of Ariel's world 'under the sea' and Eric's 'human world.' The fish and sea creatures were vivid and colorful as ever. The members of Prince Eric's kingdom could put modern royal courts to shame in their exquisite 19th century gowns and suits. And Ariel's dress was thankfully not as overly poofy and 1980s-esque as the animated movie. The sweet, baby pink tea dress gracefully accentuated Ariel's natural innocence and wonder.

With Reub and our college buds!

Like many others, I was anxious to see how Disney would dive us under the sea in a Broadway theater. Strategic lighting and projections were a given, but would Ariel and Flounder be swimming via cables or ropes? Questions were answered when Ariel's sisters introduced themselves and the world of Atlantica on streamlined roller skates. It sounds like it would look weird, but skating convincingly gave the actors the graceful speed and movement they needed for their costumes to mimic underwater movement. And the costume/tech department did a great job of making the skates sleek and incorporating them into the overall costume ensemble.

Unfortunately, Ariel's voyage on Broadway lasted for just a little over a year and is still awaiting a possibility for a tour. Some attribute it to bad timing because of the economy, others because of the mixed reviews. I guess some people didn't dig the skates. But come on, it's The Little Mermaid! Then again, my inability to understand why Disney ever axed the show may be because I'm a little partial when it comes to Ariel.


If there's such thing as a ranking of movies based on pure nostalgia and childhood connection, The Little Mermaid sits at numero uno for me. There was something about the rebellious mermaid and her beachy keen sidekicks that got me hooked (malapropism and pun intended) into the brilliantly vibrant world of Atlantica. The upbeat reggae number of 'Under the Sea' cemented my fondness for all things Disney. And my first recollection of my mother telling me to never talk to strangers was right after Ursula enticed Ariel to give up her voice to become human. Ok, so I am a little biased. But, hopefully, one day, more people will have a chance to get as lost at sea as I did that night.



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