reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s ambitious new production, The Little Mermaid is, of course, based on the 1986 eponymous Disney film which became 2008’s Broadway version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from 1837. Director Elizabeth Payne and choreographer Ron Morgan have, with their fine work in this production, completed a trifecta of tremendous treats from B&B – counting the recent 42nd Street and Grease.

Prince Eric (Nate Willey) and Ariel (Sarah Daniels) are afloat (center) for the “Kiss the Girl” number in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Little Mermaid”.

The technical staff has gone all out for this one with multi-media set aspects, puppetry, an outstanding array of colorful costumes, blacklight features, plus flying (and floating) performers. Every scene is augmented with at least one upgraded stagecraft attribute. Coupled with the top level performances by the cast, the show is a very appealing experience for every audience member – young and old.

Sarah Daniels stars as Ariel in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Little Mermaid”.

All the major roles are filled by outstanding talents: Sarah Daniels (Ariel), Nate Willey (Prince Eric), Michael Ray Fisher (Sebastian), Peter Scharbrough (King Triton) and Kelly Teal Goyette (Ursula) all possess and display rich voices which lift the production. Ms. Daniels returns to B&B after her achievement as Sandy in Grease, once again charming us with her exceptional gifts, making her Ariel a sweet but persistent mermaid. Mr. Willey joins her in the story’s romantic coupling, finding just the right tone of regal character for his Prince. Mr. Fisher adds shine to the role of Sebastian, the crab recruited to guide Ariel’s choices. Peter Scharbrough’s stately King Triton conveys power, while Ms. Goyette is especially nasty as the villainous Ursula, albeit adding an evil charm to the portrayal.

There is conflict between siblings Ursula (Kelly Teal Goyette) and King Triton (Peter Scharbrough) in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Little Mermaid”.

There are also many exceptional supporting performers. Fifth grader Jack Clark does awesome work as Flounder, Chris Trombetta brings rollicking squawks and flutters as the busybody seagull – Scuttle, real-life twins Austin Glen Jacobs and Ryan Alexander Jacobs provide Ursula’s nefarious henchmen Flotsam and Jetsam, Brett Mutter has a lively seafood recipe as Chef Louis, and John Vessels adds his comical talents as the Prince’s guardian Grimsby. Kristen Noonan displays her fearless flying aerial talents in a few of the more extravagant production numbers.

Grimsby (John Vessels, center) leads a vocal contest of prospective princesses in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Little Mermaid”.

An array of beautiful feminine characters are supplied by the gifted dance ensemble – Jennifer Ladner, Kristen Noonan, Amy Owens, Sally Scharbrough, AnnaLee Traeger and Christine Zavakos. Danard Daniels Jr. and Logan Moore skillfully step into a series of supporting roles.

Ariel (Sarah Daniels) and Prince Eric (Nate Willey) from a scene in Beef & Boards’ production of “The Little Mermaid”.

Although B&B costumer Jill Kelly Howe has the advantage of a great many rentals from MSMT Costumes at her disposal here, her work at augmenting, arranging and fitting the plethora of costumes certainly deserves notice. Terry Woods leads the B&B orchestra through the challenging score, while Troy Trinkle coordinates the aerial facets of the show with Ms. Noonan. Also, special nods go to wig designer Kurt Alger, lighting designer Ryan Koharchik, and scenic designer Michael Layton for their noteworthy work on the production.

Bottomline: The entire family will enjoy this enchanting and spectacular version of the Disney favorite. Gold standard performances by this wonderfully talented group of actors and actresses will thrill the little ones. Kudos to B&B Artistic Director Eddie Curry for bringing together this absolutely brilliant cast.

The Little Mermaid continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through June 30th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry
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