Night Of A Thousand Fish Puns
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 ZFS! GUIDE TO DISNEY'S LITTLE MERMAID ON BROADWAY
-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.