“The Little Mermaid” at Bass Concert Hall enchants visually, emotionally

“The Little Mermaid” musical, which is onstage at Bass Concert Hall through Sunday, is magical. Characters fly through the air, skate and dance as if they are swimming through the ocean. It’s one of the few musicals that use all the stage from top to bottom, back to front. You never know where Ariel will appear next.

Disney's "The Little Mermaid" stars Alison Woods as Ariel.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” stars Alison Woods as Ariel.

The musical rounds out the Disney movie by creating back story as well as letting us into the minds of more than just the lead character, Ariel. Ursula the sea witch is actually King Triton’s older sister. Who knew? Triton loves Ariel the most because she has her mother’s voice. And that mother is the reason why Triton hates humans. He thinks his wife was killed by them.

To give all this back story, the musical adds a lot of songs — a lot. More than half are not in the movie. They blend well, though, and feel like they should have been, but if you have “Little Mermaid” purists, it will be a tough sell. And if you have little ones, the hour and 23 minute movie becomes a two and a half hour musical with a 15 minute intermission. It also feels like all the secondary characters: Prince Eric, his adviser Grimsby, Ariel’s friend Flounder, the crazy seagull Scuttle, King Triton, Ariel’s sisters, and Ursula’s henchmen Flotsam and Jetsam were all given their signature song, which doesn’t always move this story forward.

Still, as a production, it is visually stunning, incredibly heartwarming and stunning. Alison Woods, who plays Ariel, has her precociousness and naiveté down. Her voice sounds straight from the movie, not an easy task considering the range that Ariel is expected to have. Jennifer Allen as Ursula is pure fun in her evilness. She gives a memorable performance and the choreography smartly uses her eight octopus legs to be characters of their own.

Also of note, the is one of the first productions at Bass Concert Hall where the sound was well done. It did not feel as if the actors were singing through mud and you could understand the lyrics almost all of the time. There was no whispers from the audience of “What did she say?” Instead, a lot of kids and even adults were repeating the lyrics or lines during intermission or after the show in approval of their cleverness.

“The Little Mermaid

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.Sunday.

Where: Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive

Tickets: $35-$115

Information: texasperformingarts.org

Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at austin360.com/raisingaustin. She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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