Who knew you could get a glass-bottom boat ride in tiny land-locked Chanhassen, Minnesota?
That’s exactly what Artistic Director Michael Brindisi and his staff at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres have done with their outstanding production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
While the Original Broadway production of this show sank, thanks to bad reviews and a poor economy, this version proves that the show itself is well-crafted, has a good plot and the songs added for the stage production aren’t just filler.
At the heart of the show is the age-old struggle between teenage age daughter and domineering father. Ariel, the mermaid girl wants to explore life and love above the surface, while her father King Triton wants to protect her from the evil humans can possess.
The story is also about love and letting go. A theme that had this reviewer in tears as I watched Triton give Ariel his blessing to ditch the tail and marry Prince Eric, knowing that someday I will do the same with my date that night, my six year old daughter.
And speaking of kids, The Little Mermaid is the perfect show to introduce children to live professional theatre. While it is much longer than the animated film, there is never a dull moment. The action, music and costumes had my daughter’s little jaw on the table on more than one occasion.
Brindisi’s direction is once again on the spot. The man knows how to tell a tale without letting his direction get in the way. Each actor, some in multiple roles, has done his or her homework to not just look like an undersea creature, but to actually be believable.
Rich Hamson’s costumes are some of the best he has produced at the Chan. The colors and textures brought forth make you forget you are in a suburban dinner theatre and transport you to the ocean. I was particularly fond of the seahorse costumes crafted for the shows youngest actors.
The set, by designer Nayna Ramey is simple but spectacular. The set doesn’t move. Like in many previous shows here, the set is multi-use. But Ramey does such wonders with incorporating Sue Ellen Berger’s lighting design that the set goes from ocean bottom to ship to ocean bottom to palace to ocean bottom again within a blink of an eye.
As Ariel, Caroline Innerbichler brings a soul as big as her singing voice. With her natural red hair she was born to play this part. She also looks like a good candidate to be the next Chanhassen alum to hit the big time following in the footsteps of Amy Adams and Laura Osnes.
Tyler Michael’s Prince Eric is well sung and acted. This kid is going places too. When he accepts his first Tony Award, I hope he remembers to thank the Chan.
Other Chanhassen regulars like Keith Rice, Tony Vierling, Michael Gruber, Kersten Rodau, Mark King and Jay Albright give outstanding performances in varying sizes. Albright eats so much of the set as the fast talking seagull Scuttle that I’m sure the cleaning crew has to pick up his droppings after each show. And Rodau is at her evil best as the villain, Ursula. She’s joined by Vierling and Gruber who both have been leading men in their careers, but prove with the help of green lip stick they can play electric eels with just as much vigor and star quality.
If you want a good night of theatre you can bring the whole family to this spring and summer, I can’t think of a better option than this production. The Chanhassen’s Little Mermaid has it all.