‘Kiss the Girl,’ and kiss yourself for getting tickets
Try being a beautiful mermaid with a glorious singing voice, yearning to be free of her underwater life. There’s a kind king for a father who wants to protect his daughter; a fabulously wicked aunt, itching to get her hands on the niece and her voice; and various comical characters, and you have the gist of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
Oh. And there’s a handsome prince. Who sings like a dream.
This upbeat take on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, which opened at The Gateway Friday night, is infused with one terrific production number after another. Flying by Foy scenes, including an ebullient seagull, a hilarious crab, an over-the-top Parisian cook, six mean girl Mersisters, that deliciously nasty aunt octopod and her slithering minions with roller skates… it doesn’t get better than this. Here’s a peek at some of the musical numbers.
You need drama in a story like this, and Ursula, the glam octopod aunt played to the hilt by Moeisha McGill (her fourth appearance at Gateway with Broadway chops), flings her purple and green tentacles around with murderous attitude. In “Daddy’s Little Angel,” she’s hilarious in her venom, revealing a bit of background. Her brother, Ariel’s father King Triton, banished her, diminishing her power. Accompanied by menacing minions Flotsam and Jetsam on roller skates, she wants it back. Let’s get Ariel! Oh, the revenge! Oh, that amazing voice!
(Flotsam and Jetsam get a nod, too, as they cast their dark pall on skates. Not easy. It’s short, but when they do sing, wow!)
The six Mersisters, who perform a ‘60s-style girl song “She’s in Love” with “shoop shoops,” swaying and vamping in harmony, are great fun. “Under the Sea,” the calypso and reggae-influenced song with Sebastian the crab and Ariel’s guardian, played by Jeremy Gaston, is a fabulous dancing and singing spectacle, with the entire cast as gorgeous sea creatures wearing rainbow-colored costumes, one more beautiful than the other, that rocks the theater. Their total joy during the number just about urges audience participation onstage.
(Alas, I was wearing navy blue. Too boring.)
He also sings “Kiss the Girl,” while Ariel and Prince Eric are out on a romantic boat ride. It is beautiful.
Scuttle, the seagull, played by Jim Borstelmann as Ariel’s life coach, is a brilliant humor master who flies in and out throughout the production. In “Positoovity” and “Positaggity,” he walks with a wiggle for swagger, and the other seagulls do a Busby Berkeley-like rendition. Then they tap. His expansive, unabashed take is just, wow!
Catch the flamingo and sea turtle puppets on the sides getting in on the act.
“Jimmy Borstelmann is Broadway royalty,” said The Gateway’s associate artistic director Michael Baker. “He was in the original cast of ‘Chicago’ and was in ‘Young Frankenstein.’”
And oh, that Chef Louis. Adolpho Blaire in real life, he’s a glorious hoot as the effusive French chef accompanied by eight waiters, who presides over a fish menu at Prince Eric’s castle with euphoria, ready to cut off heads, tails, whatever. (Catch the cringing human fish head who realizes her fate.) In “Les Poissons,” hurling his cleaver, he tries to slice through Sebastian without success, as the wily crab manages to pinch him in, uh, delicate places. Yikes! And they’re all Ariel’s friends.
Emily Grace Tucker as Ariel and Patrick Ortiz as Prince Eric are flawless in their roles as yearning lovers. Their voices are stunning, and it’s nice to hear real love songs. (When Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning, enacted in a Flying by Foy underwater scene rehearsal, it went viral on a TikTok post, getting a million hits.)
Tucker was nominated for two Broadway World Regional Awards as Ariel, among her many credits. Ortiz has “West Side Story” and “Mamma Mia!” among his Broadway roles.
Flounder, Ariel’s constant companion, is 13-year-old Addison Wasylyshyn, who rocked it with her endearing, comedic acting and singing. “It was her first major role,” explained Michael Baker, who also heads up Gateway’s Acting School, of the Holbrook resident. “She’s a student here. All the rest are professional actors from New York City, except the swings, who are local students.”
The set was imaginative, with an underwater bubble creation, mist, strobe lights, a ship, and the castle backdrop. Kudos to the orchestra as well as everyone in this production, who obviously had a ball doing the show.