Disney’s The Little Mermaid
There’s a lot of cute charm under the sea as the Dayton Playhouse presents composer Alan Menken, librettist Doug Wright, and lyricists Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater’s 2008 musical adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen and directed by Matthew Smith, The Little Mermaid splashes forth as a decently sweet diversion admirably led by Abby Stoffel as the lovely Ariel, daughter of King Triton (Steven Lakes, looking toned and sounding great). Curious about the human world and longing to leave her ocean home, Ariel falls for handsome prince Eric (strong tenor Garrett Young), but is ultimately lured by treacherous sea witch Ursula (a deliciously evil Angelé Price in one of her finest performances) seeking to usurp Triton’s throne.
Stoffel is pleasant as the main focus (her tender rendition of “Part of Your World” is an early highlight), but the support she receives from Price as well as the entertaining trio of William ‘Kip” Moore (Sebastian), Samantha Creech (Scuttle), and Chavin Medina (Flounder) absolutely bolsters the action, which also features an energetic Brad Bishop as excitable Chef Louis (“Les Poissons”).
Smith’s artistic team includes music director Lorri B. Johnson-Topping (ensuring If Only Quartet is the standout it was written to be), scenic designer Chris “Red” Newman (whose imaginative instincts extend to filling Ariel’s hideaway with an array of eye-catching knickknacks), costumer Janet Powell (supplying colorful contributions although Ariel’s skirt could be more elegantly distinguished), lighting designer Richard Lee Waldeck (utilizing warm ocean-inspired blues and greens), choreographers Kiersten Farmer and JuanGabriel Encarnacion, sound designer J. Gary Thompson, and projection designer Ray Zupp.
Interestingly, this feel-good production feels artistically at war with itself. Some moments reveal the Playhouse overstepping its bounds in terms of what they can do with space while other moments suggest they simply didn’t go far enough. Regardless of cohesive issues, if you loved the movie you’ll love this show.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid continues through May 20 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler, Ave., Dayton. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 or seniors, students and military. For more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.
Artistic authenticity and personal integrity are key factors fueling Stephen Sachs’ timely and topical 2014 two-hander Bakersfield Mist, which has received a firm local premiere at the Dayton Theatre Guild.
Fluidly directed by Doug Lloyd and set in Bakersfield, California, this relatable yet relatively thin dramedy concerns unemployed Maude Gutman (Rachel Oprea), a loud-mouthed loner thrilled to have discovered what may or may not be a Jackson Pollock original. For verification purposes, Maude invites sophisticated Lionel Percy (Charles Larkowski), former director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, to her trailer park. Tension ensues, sparks fly, and feelings are hurt, but the old-fashioned reminder that polar opposites can find common ground ultimately arises.
Performed without intermission, Bakersfield is at its best when Maude and Lionel stop slinging insults and fully embrace the idea of connection. Both have emotionally scarred pasts, particularly Maude, and during these prized instances of vulnerability the play becomes more credible. After all, I question the believability of Lionel choosing to stay long past his welcome, especially when he’s on his way out the door only to be pulled in by Maude’s admiration for Law & Order. Even so, Larkowski particularly and marvelously delivers a passionate monologue professing Lionel’s love of art, and Oprea handles Maude’s investigatory brashness with earthy aplomb. In addition, Maude’s visually kooky world, encompassing beer bottle wind chimes, hamburger salt and pepper shakers, and a random bowling pin, is wonderfully realized by scenic designer Patrick Allyn Hayes with set dressing by Hayes, Deirdre Root, Mark Mickle, and Rick Flynn.
In our current political climate, and depending on your perspective, there’s something truly inspirational or truly unnerving about Maude. She seems to boldly represent those who feel they’ve been left behind, the ignored underdogs longing for what’s owed them. Laugh if you will but as the midterm election approaches, Sachs supplies a surprisingly cautionary tale of America’s great divide.
Bakersfield Mist continues through May 27 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave., Dayton. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $13 for students. For more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit daytontheatreguild.org.