Under the Sea: La Comedia’s ‘Little Mermaid’ a joyful delight

If you’ve been longing to get out of the house to catch a live theater experience bound to entertain you and your entire family, don’t miss La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s utterly delightful and joyful presentation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Based on the 1989 Academy Award-winning film of the same name and the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the familiar story concerns lovely mermaid princess Ariel, whose desire to become human doesn’t sit well with her domineering father King Triton. Ariel clings to the hope of a future in the world above with the dashing Prince Eric, but falls victim to treachery when she bargains her voice and soul during a reunion with her aunt Ursula.

The score by composer Alan Menken and lyricists Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater includes “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”

Here are five reasons to see this vocally strong showcase, fluidly directed and vibrantly choreographed by Chris Beiser and continuing through Sunday, Aug. 15 in Springboro.

AN ENCHANTING STORY THAT FEELS BELIEVABLE

It’s easy to be transported by the sheer fantasy of the story and visual spectacle offered by Beiser’s first-rate artistic team, particularly the fanciful contributions of costume coordinator Emercita Erb, scenic designer Dave Gabert and lighting designer Edward Huber. But librettist Doug Wright brings depth to the material with a clear understanding that parents must learn the value of letting go as their children grow. The squabbles between Ariel (sweet and endearing KatieAnn Bonavita) and King Triton (a commanding Steven Lakes) purposefully arise with relatable growing pains, proving that even a magical kingdom can feel like your own home.

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

A DREAMY PRINCE WHO KNOWS WHAT HE WANTS

Cedarville University theater graduate Jeremy Smith delivered a breakthrough comedic portrayal in 2018′s “Fools,” but he’s all about romance this time around as the hopelessly smitten Prince Eric. Charming, handsome and focused, Smith is believably transfixed as Eric becomes increasingly infatuated with Ariel. His dynamic rendition of “Her Voice” is a true epiphany, a passionate confirmation that Eric’s life will not be complete without his mystery woman. Swoon!

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

A DELECTABLY WICKED WITCH OUT FOR REVENGE

Before Tori Kocher was a Belmont University musical theater graduate, she was a fixture on local stages in such shows as “Grease,” “Footloose,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” among many others. So, it’s great to see her in an outstanding return, heightening Ursula’s vengeful villainy as a humorous blend of Bette Midler-meets-Margaret Hamilton. With tentacles in tow (and firmly supported by the kooky silliness of henchmen Jetsam and Flotsam, respectively portrayed by Dylan Jackson and Wright State University acting major Jake Jones), Kocher is a knockout vocally and comedically, particularly finding hilarious nuances while detailing the conditions of Ariel’s contract in “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

SISTERS WITH ATTITUDE CLAMORING FOR ATTENTION

King Triton favors Ariel but he has other daughters worthy of recognition, especially in this production. Here, the incredibly sassy Mersisters are terrifically portrayed with a refreshing contemporary edge by Allison Gabert (Allana), Madelynn Glenn (Arista), Hayley Martin (Andrina), Arianna Schrage (Adella), Jocelyn Trimmer (Aquatta), and Taylor Wadham (Atina). Whether gossiping in the pop vein (“She’s in Love” featuring Jax Heritage as Flounder) or displaying operatic tendencies in “The Contest,” this dandy ensemble is a real treat.

A FRENCH CHEF DELIVERS A SIGNATURE MOMENT

The strengths of the supporting players abound (Anirudh Keshamouni’s jovial Sebastian and Wright State University acting major Matthew Shanahan’s witty Scuttle are consistently amusing), but Digger Howard’s fabulously flamboyant Chef Louis is a gem. His superbly executed “Les Poissons” leaps forth as an effortless mastery of character, personality, lyric, comedic timing, and rhythm.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Contact this contributing writer at russellflorencejr@yahoo.com

How to go:

What: Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”

Where: La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro

When: Through Aug. 15; Performances are Thursdays-Sundays

Cost: $65-$76; $35 for kids 11 and under

Tickets: Call 1-800-677-9505 or 937-746-4554 or visit lacomedia.com

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