Nancy Sasso Janis
‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid’ produced by Landmark Community Theatre has had a triumphant run at the Thomaston Opera House. Parents and grandparents have brought many young well-dressed children to their first theatrical production because they knew this would be a good choice. Of course there were the well-known songs featured in the Disney animated film mixed with many more that have been added to the musical, as well as a wonderful set and a huge number of great costumes. Not to mention a boatload of talented community theatre actors that sang and danced as the familiar characters from the beloved tale that I will in fact mention later.
Producer Jeff Dunn gave a tutorial on wand technology during his curtain speech so that the patrons who had purchased light-up toys in the lobby would know how to use them during their two audience participation numbers. From my seat in the mezzanine, I must admit that the colorful lights in the audience added a lot to “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” but the few wands that were activated for no reason throughout the rest of the show proved to be distracting at best. For the record, I felt the same way about the cell phones that were lit up for extended periods.
Director Eric Wilczak writes in his playbill letter that he believes that the true story of ‘The Little Mermaid’ is one of finding your voice. I believe that he found his voice in this production that is visually beautiful and also a joy to hear because of outstanding vocal performances and an excellent orchestra under the direction of Holly J. McCann. I was especially impressed by the quartet of “If Only” in the second act. Choreography by Jennifer Lynn Clark was well-executed by everyone in the cast from the members of the adorable children’s ensemble to the leads. I loved the tap dancing by the seagull chorus for “Positoovity.”
From the first note of “The World Above” that opened the show, Becky Sawicki as Ariel was the perfect little mermaid in every way. This young actress has the kind of voice that any sea witch would covet and was a pleasure to watch in her Landmark debut. Just as strong was the performance of Zack Heidorn as her beloved Prince Eric. This CCSU graduate was a strong actor as the very handsome prince and he sang beautifully. Kudos to both young actors on their splashy performances.
New to the Opera House stage was Hal Chernoff in the role of Ariel’s stern father King Triton. Ben Stone-Zelman was just adorable as her friend Flounder in a great fish costume designed by Judith Tringali. Steve Sorriero was the prince’s guardian Grimsby and newcomer Kyle Davis did a great job in the role of the befuddled seagull Scuttle. Frank Beaudry was at his comic best in the role of the singing Chef Louis in “Les Poissons.”
Cat Heidel took on her dream role of the nasty sea witch Ursula and sounded amazingly evil in her solos. Her hench-eels were well-played by Rob Hagedorn as Jetsam and WAMS graduate Justin Normandin as Flotsam. Dan Beaudoin (Mary Sunshine in Landmark’s critically acclaimed ‘Chicago’) brought down the house as the nervous crab Sebastian. Mr. Beaudoin proved that he can do it all once again.
Dan Checovetes designed the sparkling lighting and the sound issues were minimal. The orchestra sounded even more impressive with the addition of Juan Cardona on the magnificent pipe organ for several of the bigger numbers. After the show ended at a family-friendly hour, the actors generously remained on stage for photo opportunities with the youngest patrons.
Congratulations to the creative team, cast and crew of this wonderful and large scale production at the Thomaston Opera House.