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Review: “The Little Mermaid” play brings new expression to a classic film

Review: The Little Mermaid play brings new expression to a classic film

Broadway in Tucson’s “The Little Mermaid” opened to a nearly sold-out audience at Centennial Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

The audience was filled with young girls dressed as their favorite mermaids, university students and Tucson locals, all buzzing about their mutual excitement for the show to begin.

Audience member Brian Turner had never seen the original Walt Disney film and was eager to see the show.

“This was a whole new thing for me, but it’s been great. The dancing is fantastic and the music is really great,” Turner said. “The lead, Ariel, has a phenomenal voice and she’s doing a great job.”

And she was. Diana Huey, an actress and singer from Seattle, played Ariel in the show. The resemblance between Huey’s voice and the original voice actress, Jodi Benson was uncanny. Huey’s rendition of the iconic song “Part of Your World” seemed as if it had come straight from the Disney soundtrack.

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Another audience member, Trey Crane, noticed the remarkable resemblance of Huey and Benson’s voices.

“Her voice is almost eerie because when I close my eyes I feel like I’m watching the movie, which is very impressive,” Crane said.

The visuals of the show were animated, appropriate and adaptable for the different scenes. During the scene in which Sebastian sings “Under the Sea,” there was a particularly memorable ensemble of dancers dressed as bright-colored fish whose costumes could be on par with those of Cirque du Soleil.

Regarding choreography, the production had remarkable dance numbers and consistently included transitions that preserved the illusion of the actors imitating mermaids.

“I love the choreography,” Crane said. “Even when they’re still, you can feel the water moving.”

The show drew another parallel to Cirque du Soleil by attaching harnesses to the actors and lifting them off the ground and across the stage to resemble swimming motions.

Danielle Gervais, a freshman at the University of Arizona, said she admired the mechanics used during the show and how they affected the overall quality of the production. She especially liked how the actors “swam” when they were lifted into the air.

However, in contrast to the sets and mechanics of the show, there were a few cosmetic hiccups. Although the mermaid costumes were beautiful and acted as an optical illusion, the more petite actresses, specifically Ariel herself, seemed to be, ironically, drowning in them. The mermaids’ wigs also seemed to be toned down significantly, to the point where it was unclear if Ariel’s hair was actually red. However, these minor details did not affect the story.

The show opened with a scene that was a variation to the original opening in the Disney film. The movie version begins with Prince Eric’s ship and his crew sailing the ocean while Ariel is not seen until a few scenes in. However, in the Broadway production, the play opened with Ariel herself, perhaps as a way to better intrigue audience members.

The play also included a more mature sense of humor than the movie.

“I see a lot of differences [between the movie and the film] because they include a lot more adult humor, which I find really funny,” Gervais said.

Perhaps the variation in humor is due to the difference in audience members, or maybe the directors and producers just wanted to include jokes that only mature audience members would understand. Either way, the humor was subtle and comprehensively funny.

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While Ariel stayed true to her original film character, other minor characters in the production, specifically Ursula played by Jennifer Allen, added what seemed to be an unnecessary dramatic flare to the original character, but was nevertheless entertaining to watch.

Broadway in Tucson is a production company that has been bringing Broadway shows to Centennial Hall since 2004. In that time, there have been countless Broadway shows shown in Tucson.

Overall, the production was well-composed and offered a fresh experience compared to the children’s movie. “The Little Mermaid” will be playing at Centennial Hall until Sunday, Sept. 17.


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