– Theater Review –
PHOTO: Ariel ascends to the surface in Variety’s production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Photo by Rob Sifford for The Current 2014 ©
 
Grade: A+

 

By Donna Brandy, Staff Writer for The Current

The Variety Children’s Theatre’s performance of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” musical at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center in the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall at the University of Missouri – St. Louis was an amazing sight to see.

The play opened on October 24 with two shows, 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and completed its final performance on October 26 at 1:30 p.m. Friday’s evening performance was sign interpreted by J. Eric and Regina Driskill from St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.

Hundreds of children arrived excitedly for the occasion, anticipating the timeless story of Ariel’s dream of visiting the human world. The 3-D design of the scenery gave the appearance of actually being underwater, on the beach, and in the castle.

Variety Children’s Theatre is a charitable organization that helps children with physical or mental disabilities through the staging of professional-level theater productions for children. The charity’s mission is “To help local children with disabilities reach their full potential by providing services every time they need assistance.” Their casts include children, adults and “Variety kids” who receive assistance from the organization.”

The play’s opening scene was filled with a virtual, colorful bubble filled underwater background as Ariel (Austen Bohmer) “swam” her way across the stage to watch Prince Eric (Ben Nordstrom) and his fellow seamen sailing in a ship. Enchanted by the beautiful scenery and the lovely voice of Ariel, some audience members sang along word for word and note for note to the song “Part of Your World.”

The transition from scene to scene was magnificent with colorful ‘water plants’ floating across the stage animatedly. This reviewer, along with the audience, felt like the ‘water’ was real by the way King Triton’s servants stood still, yet ever so slightly, swayed from side to side as the Mersisters sang for their father during a celebration scene.

Joy Boland stunned the audience as Ursula, making an electrifying entrance with her minions, sparkling and glowing green with envy as they plotted revenge against King Triton (Christopher Limber). The Mersisters (Cherlynn Alvarez, Abigail Isom, Lauren Lenke, Taylor Pietz, Jamey Jacobs Powell and Erica Stephan), entered under bright psychedelic circles of light, singing “She’s in Love with the Mersisters.”

Flounder (Nicholas George, who is a Variety Child member) almost stole the show with his witty, quip remarks in response to Ariel falling for a human and not him. Shawn Bowers held his own, providing the walk and talk for Sebastian the sea crab. He and the ensemble of sea creatures got the audience moving and enthralled with the song “Kiss the Girl.”

The show ended with a tag team of Flounder and Sebastian compelling the audience to donate $10 to The Variety Children’s Charity by texting Mermaid to 80888.

Future shows planned by the charity organization include Champions for Children’s Summit, November 12, and Bikes for Kids Giveaway, December 6. For additional information and donation options, please visit their website at www.varietystl.org. The organization is located at 2200 Westport Plaza Drive, Suite 306 in St. Louis, MO.

This reviewer has seen many plays at various local theaters. However, this has been the most captivating and impressive display of heart by the actors, stage and costume designs, musical scoring and singing and overall expression of life that makes this reviewer want to become “part of their world.”

© The Current 2014