By Heidi Sutton
The John W. Engeman Theater’s latest children’s production, “The Little Mermaid Jr.” opened last weekend with a big splash.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, Disney’s animated film “The Little Mermaid” was adapted for the stage in 2007 and made it to Broadway in 2008. Now a condensed children’s version of the Broadway musical swims over to Northport and does not disappoint. Kevin F. Story expertly directs a cast of 20 talented young actors in a shimmering production that runs weekends on the Engeman stage through October.
The story centers around Princess Ariel (the incredible Meaghan Maher), the youngest of King Triton’s daughters who longs to leave her ocean home to live with humans. She often visits the surface to observe these strange creatures with legs and even has a secret collection of man-made thingamabobs and dinglehoppers.
One day she sees Prince Eric (played by the handsome Shane McGlone) on a ship and immediately falls in love. When his ship is caught in a storm caused by Ariel’s evil aunt, Ursula the sea witch (Olivia Freiberger), Eric falls overboard and is quickly rescued by the mermaid princess.
When King Triton (Theron Viljoen) finds out Ariel has been visiting the world above, they argue and she runs away, only to be ambushed by Ursula’s slippery minions Flotsam and Jetsam (Meaghan McInnes and Amelia Freiberger, respectively) who convince her that the sea witch can make her wish to be human come true. The catch is that Ariel will have to give up her voice and Eric must fall in love with her in three days or she would lose her soul forever. With a new pair of legs and help from her friends Flounder (Makayla Connolly), Sebastian (Danny Feldman) and Scuttle (Lizzie Dolce), Ariel sets off to follow her heart. Will she get her wish or will Auntie Ursula get in the way?
With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glen Slater, the show features all the wonderful songs we have come to love including the fun-filled “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” the hilarious “Les Poissons” by Chef Louis (Scott Cousins) and the chilling “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” which has the profound underlying message that “a woman doesn’t know how precious her voice is until she has been silenced.” The highlight of the afternoon, however, is hearing Maher perform a breathtaking rendition of “Part of Your World.” What a voice! No wonder Ursula wants it!
In the name of Poseidon, bring your children to see this show. They’ll love you for it. Running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program.
The John W, Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present ‘The Little Mermaid Jr.” through Oct. 28. Children’s theater continues with “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30 and “Seussical the Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.
*This article was updated on Oct. 5.