Disney's “The Little Mermaid,” the second of four productions in Lyric Theatre's 2014 summer season, is a textbook example of style over substance. Fortunately, its stylish attributes are abundant, from eye-catching costumes to shimmering underwater scenes.
Doug Wright's book, however, plods along at such a snail's pace that it robs the narrative of any real the atricality. The story is reduced to a series of isolated scenes that have no credible dramatic function.
As Sebastian points out, “This is going nowhere fast.”
Wright's attempts at humor are aquatic jokes that tend to elicit groans instead of laughter. As one of King Triton's daughters proclaims, “Fish puns? Aren't we better than that?”
Most animated Disney films are to some degree formulaic, and “The Little Mermaid” is no exception. An evil character — in this case, the villainess Ursula — tries to prevent the main characters from finding true love. She grants Ariel's wish to trade fins for legs but steals Ariel's voice as part of the bargain. That renders the former mermaid mute, a hazard that nearly prevents the young princess from winning the heart of Prince Eric.. With few exceptions, the cast is uniformly strong, from Vince Leseney's elegantly proper Grimsby to Keslie Ward's boastful Flounder. But why cast a girl as Ariel's sidekick? You'd think the first-rate Lyric Academy could field at least one talented boy.
Jamard Richardson nicely captures the lilting Caribbean cadences of Sebastian, although his red velvet costume looks more lobster than crab. He also gets to introduce the musical's two most attractive hits, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”
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