After rising to the occasion last year with such gravity-defying entertainments as Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, the folks at Phoenix Productions in Red Bank dive deep for their inaugural production of the 2016 season: the Disney musical The Little Mermaid, which surfaces for a two-weekend run at the Count Basie Theatre.
The stage adaptation of the 1989 film — a finny feature that’s been credited with flipping the fortunes of Disney’s classic animation studio — makes its debut in the grand Basie auditorium, continuing a family-friendly formula that’s packed the house with productions of Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, and The Wizard of Oz in recent seasons.
Augmenting movie-soundtrack songs by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman (“Part of Your World,” “Kiss the Girl,” Sebastian the Crab’s showstopper “Under the Sea”) with additional lyrics by Glenn Slater (Sister Act), the 2007 stage show was actually revamped after its original Broadway production closed, with a new 2012 book and other modifications (including the use of fly-wires to simulate underwater swimming) that have become the norm for companies like Phoenix, the long-running, borough-based troupe that moved recently to a spacious new state-of-the-art headquarters on Chestnut Street.
Kept intact from the Disney toon is the tone and ending that are considerably more upbeat from the 19th-century source fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.
Starring here as Ariel, the daughter of mer-people King Triton, whose fascination with the world above the waves leads her to live as a human in pursuit of a kiss from dashing Prince Eric, is Cat “Catfish” Tierney.
Also featured under Red Bank Catholic High School teacher Keith Gissubel’s direction are Matthew Giove as Eric, David Fusco as King Triton, Taylor “Carp” Carpinello and Chris “Ocean” Bey as Ariel’s sea-creature sidekicks Flounder and Sebastian.
Victoria Leigh “Kaiserfish” Keiser plays cephalopod sea-witch Ursula, a vivid contribution to the gallery of Disney’s bad girls. Musical director Bob “Salmon” Sammond and choreographer Rachel “Salzwasser” Wasser return to the Phoenix fold in the show, which is produced by company co-founder Tom “Wet” Martini.
Performances of The Little Mermaid are Fridays and Saturdays (April 29, 30; May 6, 7) at 8 pm, plus Sundays (May 1, 8) at 3 pm. Take it here to reserve tickets ($22 – $32) to any of the individual shows, or go here for additional information on this and other programs from Phoenix Productions.