Moment I died of happiness. When Prince Eric gets tossed off a ship in act one and falls into the ocean. The easy way to stage this would be for him to be tossed off the ship and then to cut to Ariel tending to him on the beach. But no. You know what this absolutely fantastic Seattle production of The Little Mermaid does instead? They have Prince Eric tumble off the side of the ship, then immediately fall through midair, through "water," from the top of the proscenium, slowly, while Ariel, also "swimming" through midair, swims up to him and grabs his limbs and pulls him—in midair!—to safety. Do you know how complicated it is rigging someone to a harness and hoisting them into the air and then having the actor suspended there pretend to be floating weightlessly through water? It's so much more complicated than you realize. And yet every single moment in this show is accomplished with water-like grace. It's unreal.
Moment I died of happiness again. Diana Huey singing "Part of Your World" in midair. Again, it's hard enough to float around looking like you're swimming when you're just attached by cords to the ceiling and some guy in the wings is yanking your cords up and down while he's eating a bagel or whatever*—but to do that while singing?
As for Prince Eric. Not only does he have a deep, flawless baritone, he has the Disney prince bone structure down.
As for the new songs. Yes, there are new songs. There is no human way to stage the movie version of The Little Mermaid. (Has it been awhile? In the second half, Ursula is almost going to marry Prince Eric but then the seagulls snatch her necklace away and then she falls into the ocean and becomes phantom-huge monstrosity and Prince Eric steers the bow of the ship into phantom-large Ursula's stomach and kills her and we see her electrified skeleton as she subsides back into the depths. Yeah.) So the storyline has been rewritten. The new songs aren't bad. You get to hear Matt Kacergis sing a bunch, which is nice; Prince Eric says hardly a word in the movie.
Ursula is inventive, tentacular, omni-talented, and amazingly funny. Broadway veteran Jennifer Allen does so many good things with the role I don't know where to begin. You know how everyone and their little sister can sing the entirety of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" down to every half grunt? Well, Allen reinvents the phrasing in every line, drawing new depths out of the song and showing new shades of wicked humor. She also has a few lines and songs that aren't in the movie—it's a bigger part onstage. And the way the lighting designer, Charlie Morrison, extends Ursula's lair out into the audience is brilliant.
Dane Stokinger's Chef Louis steals the show in act two. He's the one who sings "Les Poissons." As with Allen's performance, Stokinger fills his song with new jokes by reinterpreting the phrasing from the movie, and he's assisted by some hilarious props and costume details.
Props where props are due. The scenic design is by Kenneth Foy. The costumes are by Amy Clark and Mark Koss. The wigs are by Leah J. Loukas. The show is directed by Glenn Casale. The choreography is by John MacInnis. The flying sequence choreography is by Paul Rubin. The music direction is by Colin R. Freeman. The show runs through December 31 and then it goes on tour—with a bunch of Seattle talent in it, going off to Florida and everything. See it while you can. Children should be forewarned that it's different from the movie; it has all the songs they know and love, and then some.I'm kidding. C'mon.