Review: ‘The Little Mermaid’ at Alhambra is a must-sea

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Wow!

That’s pretty much the only way I could think of to describe Alhambra Theatre and Dining’s production of “The Little Mermaid” in a word.

Because it’s a great show for the entire family, tickets might be hard to get, but it’s well worth it if you can.

It’s impossible to pick out one amazing aspect of the show, from the elaborate costuming, impressive set design, standout performances, not to mention the decadent chocolate brownie with creamy mousse topping.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away as I was. I don’t have kids, and don’t really watch a lot of animated movies, Disney or otherwise. I had seen “The Little Mermaid” once, many years ago, probably at the direction of my mom, and I thought it was a sweet, entertaining movie. For those few who don’t know, “The Little Mermaid” is about a young mermaid princess who falls for a human prince but is forbidden by her father King Triton from going to the surface or interacting with humans. In her efforts to get close to the prince, she makes a deal with her evil Aunt Ursula to trade her beautiful voice for legs. 

Alhambra really outdid itself in bringing the film to life. The costumes were phenomenal, colorful, eye-catching and perfectly themed. The set décor had to be changed often, but always fit the scene.

And the performances were just plain unbelievable. Grace Gibbons, who played the main character Ariel, looked like the mermaid princess come to life, with a voice to match. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find out she has been playing the character at Disney World in Orlando. Rachel Anton, who played the wicked sea witch Ursula, was also amazing and her rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was spectacular. I actually got goosebumps. 

Every character in the performance seemed perfectly cast, and the kids in the crowd never appeared to get bored or restless. The chef, played by Brian D. Simmons, was hysterical as he prepared to make a seafood-laden dinner for Ariel’s first meal as a human, and Flounder, played by Evan Gray, was fun and adorable in his efforts to earn the affections of the mermaid princess. Then there was Scuttle, a casually dressed seagull, whose mangling of the English language always drew a laugh. There was something for everyone, not just the little ones, including Ariel’s beautifully dressed princess sisters, and her father, King Triton was a hit with the women in the audience. 

But it would be impossible to forget Sebastian, played perfectly by Rendell Anthony DeBose, the vivacious and overwrought crab charged with looking out for strong-willed Ariel. I couldn’t imagine how they would make these sea animals work on stage, but Sebastian was magic. DeBose managed to capture the crab’s Caribbean accent and inflection, as well as his expressions and mannerisms. And who didn’t want to join Sebastian and his friends “Under the Sea?”

I actually enjoyed the live play better than the movie. No matter what age, “The Little Mermaid” is sure to impress, and that’s no fish tale.

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