Stages Theatre Company (STC) in Hopkins continues to do the good work of engaging a new generation in Theatre. From their summer camp programs, which my Niece and Nephew just completed, to their productions like Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. that opened this last week. STC produces shows that are not only for young audiences, but also give young actors real experience putting on a professional level entertainment. I believe the future of theater depends on creating new audiences as much as it does on creating new performers. STC creates quality entertainments with enough creativity and spectacle to fire up the imaginations of its young audience members. Once you expose someone to a thrilling theatrical experience you’ve begun to create a future theatergoer. This production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. has what it takes to show young people the path to become lifelong audience members, and perhaps future performers as well.
This is a paired down version of the classic Disney animated film featuring many of the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman with some additional lyrics by Glenn Slater. It’s been many years since I last watched the animated classic but to my memory it faithfully follows the films plot. It’s truncated to fit an hour runtime, and while at times it feels a little rushed, I think they do a nice job of condensing without losing anything important. Director Sandy Boren-Barrett keeps things flowing along nicely, knowing that if you lose a young audiences attention it will be nearly impossible to get it back. I think moving too fast is better than moving too slowly in these situations. From a technical perspective it was a showcase of what I’ve come to expect from STC, which is inventiveness and creativity. The set Design by Holly Windingstad smoothly transitioned from underwater locations, to the deck of a ship, and dry land, each well realized. With nice added touches such as banners that dropped from the ceiling to represent seaweed growing up from the ocean floor and bubble makers that helped create the illusion of being under the sea. The lighting Design by Karin Olson, helped create the environments as well, especially effective in creating a sense of darkness and danger in Ursula’s domain. Costumes and Make-Up by Christa Ludwig successfully transformed the actors into fish, crabs, and merpeople. Putting Ursula on rollerblades was an inspired choice giving her the illusion of moving like a squid.
All of the performers young and older were up to the challenge. Sophie Farrell as Ariel carried us through the story, but her singing voice was a little unusual, she looked the part of Ariel but her singing was a little deeper in register than we expect from the character. It wasn’t bad, just different. Almost as if she was just recovering from a cold or her voice had been a little overworked and was showing the strain. Jordan Kueng as Sebastian the Crab was very enjoyable and frankly gets to perform two of the best songs “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl“. The standout performance though was Laura Mahler as Ursula. She was over the top in the way a Disney villain needs to be, when she was on stage all eyes were on her.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. will enchant younger audiences while also entertaining their parents. When the temperatures rises into the 90’s again, rather than turning on the TV, take the kids to Stages Theater Company in Downtown Hopkins. The show runs through August 7th for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.stagestheatre.org/disneys-little-mermaid/