Friday, November 30, 2007

Night Of A Thousand Fish Puns

First off, let me just say that I did not... repeat, did not... poop myself during last night's performance of Disney's The Little Mermaid. It was touch-and-go there for a while, but fortunately the turmoil in my "workin's" calmed down by the time the curtain rose and, thus, we were able to enjoy a Broadway production of a popular animated musical from our collective youth. Here's how it all went down:

NOTE: During the course of this post, I'm probably going to come off as a total musical-theater fruit pie. Which is fine; that's what I am and there's no sense in denying it. Just wanted to give you fair warning though, and also to promise that the next post I write on ZFS! will be as butch as a bunch of sexy, sexy firemen. Just to balance things out.

Back Story: The first question that I imagine you're asking yourself is, "Why, C-dog, with the wide variety of theatrical offerings at your disposal, did you choose to go see a big, honkin' production of an old Disney movie, especially since you hate corporate greed and are also just ridiculously handsome?" Well, the truth of the matter is this... Girlfriend wanted to see it. Plain as that, really; she loves The Little Mermaid (both the movie and the Hans Christian Anderson tale) and she wanted to see what they could do with the story on Broadway. And, since my parents were nice enough to get us amazingly good seats for her birthday (third row; we were practically in Ariel's lap for most of the performance), we were able to go into it secure in the knowledge that, no matter what, at least we hadn't shelled out the cash ourselves if it sucked. I believe that's what they call a "win-win."

So, how was it? Well, for those of you who don't care about the details and would very much like to get on with your days, I'll spare you the suspense: Bottom line, it was okay. Now, you Impatient Ike's and Iris' can go do your important business-related things and leave us theater queens to dish about the set design.

Without further adieu, for those of you who'd like a little more depth in your commentary, let me now present to you...


-The awesomest thing about seeing it last night was that it was the show's first time back onstage after the Stagehand's Union strike that has shut Broadway's tight, little butt down for the last three weeks. Before the show, Thomas Schumacher, the production's producer, came out and gave a very funny speech that served both as an acknowledgement of the strike, and as a reminder to the audience that the show hadn't been performed in a while and that there may be technical problems that need to be addressed throughout. There weren't, of course (these guys are pros), but you never know; it was smart of the producers to hedge their bets like that just in case all the walls fell down or something.

-Hands down, no question, the best thing about the show was the evil squid-villain, Ursula. Sherie Rene Scott, an actress I'd never heard of before, absolutely knocked that part out of the theater and into Kevin Kline's production of Cyrano de Bergerac down the street. She's not in the show just a ton or anything, but her two big numbers tear the roof off and she's funny as hell to boot. Seriously, she's worth the price of a ticket alone.

-The rest of the cast broke down like this: The chick who played Ariel was cute as a button and very good; vocally, she sounded a lot like the cartoon, and she had a very expressive face that handled the non-speaking portion of her performance quite well. The guy who played the Prince was just fine, but maybe a little bland (so your basic Disney Prince, then). The kid who played Flounder was also good; I'm always impressed to see a kid hold his own on the Broadway stage with considerably more seasoned actors. The two guys who played Ursula's electric-eel minions were good, too, and the chorus as a whole did their jobs as well as to be expected. On the other side of the spectrum, we had King Triton; the guy who played him was, in a word, lousy. And then there was Sebastian...

-The guy who played Sebastian, one of the biggest parts in the show and the character behind the movie's most memorable songs, was absolutely awful. Actually, he wasn't just awful... he was offensive. Let me put it to you this way: He didn't actually say, "Yessa, Massa... yessa," but he came pretty goddamned close. No joke, Al Jolson would have loved his performance; this version of Sebastian made Jar Jar Binks look like Frederick Douglass. Not helping matters, the actor had the charisma and charm of an actual crab; a dead one that's about to be eaten at Red Lobster. Consequently, "Kiss The Girl" and "Under The Sea" were about as lively and fun to watch as a tax audit. Seeing as how those are the big showstopper numbers... um... the producers really might want to consider a quick re-cast before the production goes any further.

-Another oddity: The set design. It was, to say the least, an avant-garde interpretation. It wasn't bad, exactly, but it was certainly different from what you'd expect to see from a Disney-backed show. Girlfriend described it as, "bad diner art," and I think that's accurate; lots of pastels, fluffy-looking coral reefs, and bizarre, carnival ride-esque contraptions that swung people around the stage as if they were swimming through the ocean.

-Oh, and you know those roller shoes that are so popular with the kids these days? That's basically what the actors wore to simulate swimming. And all the mermaids-and-men had tails hanging off their butts. They moved realistically like a tail in the water would, so that was nice, I guess.

-So, yeah... not a bad show all in all, but certainly nothing to do backflips over. If you really need a Disney fix, I'd by far recommend Mary Poppins over this. And over both of those, I'd of course recommend any show that you can find that features lots of nudity. Because that always enhances the theatrical experience, in my opinion.


Blogger Sally Tomato said...

Great recap! You should do this professionally. I love this: "...made Jar Jar Binks look like Fredrick Douglass" made me laugh my ass off.

I'm still laughing.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Aw, thanks! Believe you me, I'd love to do this kind of thing professionally. YOU HEAR ME, MAGAZINE EDITORS OF THE WORLD?!?!

10:51 AM  
Blogger brookLyn gaL said...

I can't WAIT to see this show! Sherie Renee Scott rocks- she's actually been in a ton of stuff. You can check her out in the cast recordings of Aida and The Last Five Years. Also, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, if they made a soundtrack (I can't specifically remember).

And I am SO BUMMED that you think Tituss Burgess sucked. I adore him. I've seen him do several things that have made me so excited to see him in this production. If he sucks as much as you say (and of course I always trust C-dog's opinion), then I'm in for some major disappointment.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Brooklyn... That's interesting; what else has Burgess been in that you've seen? It very well could be that he was just the wrong actor for the part. Or he could have just been having an off night, last night. And, take this under consideration, he got a big standing O from the rest of the audience, so this very well could be just a "me" thing.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Ben K. said...

And over both of those, I'd of course recommend any show that you can find that features lots of nudity.

So basically, Spring Awakening.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Girlfriend said...

Just to add my two cents:

-Sherie Renee Scott had more personality than any other character in the show. Imagine if Mae West were evil, and not southern. She was jazzy, and evil without being characteristically nasty or boring. Evil is fun, would be her motto. She was ironic, sassy, and her added song "I Want The Good Times Back" was the best added song of the whole lot. I understand why Scott wasn't allowed on stage very often...because she stole every scene she graced. This is saying a lot because I love the character of Ursula, and I'm glad they could differentiate her from the movie version, bust still do her justice. Also, her tentacle costume was pretty nifty.

-The majority of the added songs sucked. The absolute worst was "positoovity" sung by Scuttle and his gang of tap dancing seagulls. I saw children slitting their writs in the aisles, that song was so bad.

-I wasn't sure how Disney would be able to make Broadway actors looks like they were swimming underwater, but they actually stepped up and did a great job. The roller shoes helped actors glide across the stage, and all the mer-perople had tails that reacted to how they moved. The tails acted like a part of the actor's body and really helped me suspend disbelief.

-The actual special effects weren't as impressive. For a Disney production I expected more spectacle, honestly. Their main trick was two spinning harnesses where actors layed down on a turning platform, and it looked a lot like the amusement park ride, The Octopus.

-The "Under The Sea" number looked like free drink night at a gay cabana bar. And Clint is right about Sebastian's character having no charisma. I was honestly offended by how thick his fake accent was, it was indeed a minstrel show.

- The scenery was one word: Pastel. All of it.

-The second act was certainly much better than the first. I would grade the first act with a D and the second act with a B-.

-I was kinda peeved by the ushers hawking their Mermaid wares during the intermission. If I want a T-shirt or a $25 copy of the album I'll come to the lobby, thank you. I don't need you to accost me at my seat, or in the aisle. I have only seen this at Disney productions.

All in all, it wasn't painful...and didn't leave me enraged like the bastardization of Wicked...But I don't see Little Mermaid staying in theatres any longer than Disney's last flop: Tarzan.

4:22 PM  
Blogger DrunkBrunch said...

Oh man, as a frequent Broadway goer, I am now hesitant to see this. (And yes, Girlfriend, I saw Tarzan and would have slit my own wrists, but his flimsy loin cloth kept me distracted just long enough to not do so. Anyway.)

I am very excited to see SRS perform, per your review, but am disappointed about Tituss Burgess' performance. I worked with him on a Broadway charity concert last year and he was nothing but professional and captivating. He brought the house down.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Kabak... Ah, Spring Awakening. That had some high-quality nudity, for sure. Oh, and it was a good musical too.

DrunkBrunch... See, again, I think there's a very good chance that Burgess' performance just didn't work for Girlfriend and I. I'd really be interested to know how other's felt about him specifically, but also the show in general.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous stew said...

SRS is or was married to a guy I went to school with. I will be giving autographs at intermission. Thank you.

12:00 PM  
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