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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Opens the 33rd Season of The Growing Stage

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, has opened its 2014 - 2015 season with a 'splashy' production of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID (pun intended). The musical- about a mermaid who dreams of the world above the sea and gives up her beautiful voice to find love- is based on the 1837 Hans Christian Anderson story and the 1989 Disney filmThe production, directed by Stephen L. Fredericks, The Growing Stage’s Executive Director, beautifully presents the magical kingdom under the sea with all the familiar characters from the award winning film...Ariel, King Triton, the evil Ursala, handsome Prince Eric, Sebastian the crab, etc. plus, gorgeous costumes, the Growing Stage's signature, highly inventive, sets and, of course, 28 well-staged and choreographed musical numbers performed by an enthusiastic cast of 25. 

Leading the cast are eight fine professional equity performers:  Emily Cara Portune  as Ariel ( Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical); Anthony Crouchelli as the handsome Prince Eric;  Maggie Graham as Ursula; Wayne Hu as King Triton; Jenna Morris as Allana; Lyndsey Brown as Aquata; PJ Schweizer as Scuttle the Sea Gull; and Nikole Rizzo as Arista. Other key roles are covered by Equity candidates and local community talent. This group includes standout performances by Steven Etienne as Sebastian a red Jamaican crab and a servant of King Triton, young Nicholas Profito as Flounder and Robert Scarpone as Chef Louis. The list of all the cast members is below.

mermaid_ed-1Emily Cara Portune, a popular Growing Stage lead (Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical and Peter in Peter Pan), is an excellent Ariel with her fine voice and "leading lady" appearance. Maggie Graham has fun as the wicked Ursula.  All the costumes are beautifully designed mostly in brilliant colors, with the Ursula costume, tentacles and all, a special standout. Wayne Hu makes a fine, firm King Triton (marvelous voice).

The comedy highlight is a frantic Marx Brothers type scene in the palace kitchen and the banquet hall with Chef Louis (Robert Scarpone) chasing Sebastian with a meat clever. His goal, naturally, is to serve crab for dinner not knowing of Ariel’s watery background. 

The score features the classic songs Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl and the Academy Award-winning Best Original Song, Under the Sea composed by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken and his longtime collaborator, the late Howard Ashman, as well as new songs by Mr. Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. The book for the musical is by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Doug Wright.

mermaid22Under The Sea is a calypso gem clearly the highlight of the musical. It features Steven Etienne as the crab Sebastian.  Small point: His terrific head-to-toe red costume with large claw arms more closely resembles a boiled lobster. 

Director Fredericks’ production team includes Jillian Petrie Choreography, Laura Petrie Musical direction, Perry Arthur Kroeger Set, props and puppet design and construction, Steve Graham Stage Manager.

As with all of the Growing Stage productions, this is very well produced family entertainment suitable from age 4, presented at a professional level that will also satisfy the grown-ups.  The play runs about 90 minutes plus a 15 minute intermission.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio      October 4, 2014

Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID runs through the 26th of October with performances Friday evenings at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 4:00 PMThe Growing Stage continues FUN-tastic Fridays with all tickets $15! Saturday and Sunday tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for children and seniors.  To place your reservation, please visit or call (973) 347-4946.  Group rates and Birthday Party packages are available.   

The Growing Stage is located in the Palace Theater at 7 Ledgewood Ave, Netcong, NJ 07857.

The Little Mermaid Cast:

Dalton Allison            Sailor / Crab

Amanda Beck           Sailor / Sea Creature / Maid

Grace Brizek            Sea Creature / Maid

Lyndsey Brown*        Aquata / Princess

Anthony Crouchelli *  Prince Eric

Steven Etienne **      Sebastian

Matthew Fralley         Sailor / Gull

Leslie Ann Gallagher  Sea Creature

Cara Ganski**           Atina / Princess

Maggie Graham*       Ursula

Wayne Hu*               King Triton                        

Kim Jackson**           Adella / Gull  / Princess / Maid

Katherine LeFevre**   Andrina / Princess

Natalie Mehl               Flotsam

Mackenzie Miller         Sailor / Sea Creature / Maid

Jenna Morris*             Allana / Princess

Lucas Pinner**           Grimsby

Emily Cara Portune*   Ariel

Nicholas Profito          Flounder

Nikole Rizzo*               Arista / Princess

Lauren Santarelli**      Sea Creature / Gull  / Maid  / Sailor

Robert Scarpone         Pilot / Chef Louis

P.J. Schweizer*          Scuttle

Rachel Thomas           Jetsam

Sophie Verhalen          Sea Creature / Maid

Justin Watt                  Sailor / Crab

Olivia Weintraub           Sea Creature

*Member of Actor’s Equity

**Equity Membership Candidate

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