“The Little Mermaid”

                The Dallas Summer Musical production of “The Little Mermaid” is perfectly delightful.

The sets and costumes are brilliantly creative, and there’s just enough whimsy to appeal to all the hopeful children carrying their Ariel dolls, and just enough humor to keep their parents interested.

            Ariel is played by Alison Woods with a great deal of energy, physicality, and even luminosity.  Her voice is pleasing to the ear, because it’s not heavy and operatic, just sweet and clear and right on key.

            For those who may not be familiar with the story, Ariel is a sea princess---the daughter of Triton (Fred Inkley), who’s trying to raise the headstrong Ariel on his own, because his beloved wife, the Queen, died-----Triton erroneously believes at the hands of those awful humans above the surface.  So he absolutely forbids Ariel to have any contact with humans.

            This, of course, now represents Ariel’s greatest challenge, but her curiosity has a price:  she falls in love with the handsome Prince, even rescuing him when his ship was wrecked in a storm.  The Prince (Eric Kunze) is determined to find the mysterious young woman with the beautiful voice, but ironically, Ariel has to bargain with the wicked witch, Ursula (Tracy Lore) to exchange her lovely voice for the privilege of becoming human for three days, which is all the time she has to convince the Prince to fall in love with her, otherwise, she---and her lovely voice---will belong to the wicked witch forever.

            Now the scene shifts from underwater, with the constantly undulating characters and costumes, to above ground, where Ariel at first has trouble even standing up, like a newborn foal, but later learns to dance, happily and wordlessly, with her handsome Prince.  He’s thinking that a beautiful woman who can’t speak maybe is not such a bad thing (no snickering, husbands).  Ariel’s underwater friend, Sebastian the Crab (Melvin Abston) is hilarious with his Caribbean-style voice and endearing possessiveness of Ariel’s well-being.  Their friend Scuttle the Seagull (Jamie Torcellini) also charms with his unique comedic style.

            Are there criticisms?  Sure.  The music seems to be mostly double forte, when more mezzo piano would be a nice contrast.  The Prince is earnest enough, but not really very winsome.  The plot device of thwarting the witch’s takeover plan got really over-rushed and muddled, and the ending seemed the weakest part of the show. 

            Nonetheless, it’s a grand outing of appealing music and remarkable staging that really is suitable for all ages.  Especially the little girls holding their Ariel dolls.

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Assocation