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‘The Little Mermaid Jr’

By Heidi Sutton

From “The Snow Queen” to “The Princess and the Pea,” Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have touched the hearts of millions. A bronze statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, pays homage to his most popular story, “The Little Mermaid.” A major tourist attraction since its unveiling in 1913, it depicts a mermaid sitting on a rock looking longingly toward land.

Now Andersen’s beloved tale, or should I say tail, heads to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts in the form of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” a colorful musical production based on the animated film.

The timing is perfect. Along with running during spring break, the Disney film is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and a live-action remake is currently in development.

In a magical underwater kingdom, the beautiful young mermaid princess, Ariel, longs to leave her ocean home — and her fins — behind and live in the world above, much to her father King Triton’s dismay.

In exchange for her voice, Ariel bargains with the sea witch, Ursula, to become human and have the chance to win the love of Prince Eric, who she recently saved from a terrible storm. With her friends, Scuttle, Sebastien and Flounder, Ariel must fulfill her bargain with Ursula, but things do not always go as planned.

With music by Alan Menken, book by Doug Wright and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, the musical is an enchanting look at the sacrifices we all make for love and acceptance.

Christine Boehm directs a cast of young actors ages 11 to 18 through an absolutely divine production. From the shimmering costumes to the seaworthy set accented with huge pieces of coral, to the fantastic lighting and special effects, every scene is perfectly executed.

The big ensemble numbers, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” showcase the incredible choreography by Courtney Braun.

Courtney Sullivan is lovely in the title role, effectively portraying a girl who is torn between obeying her father and following her dreams. And just wait until you hear her sing! Sullivan’s rendition of “Part of Your World” during last Saturday’s performance was mesmerizing.

Speaking of singing, the very handsome Hunter Pszybylski brings a whole new dimension to Prince Eric with his amazing solos, “Her Voice” and “One Step Closer,” and captures the hearts of the audience from the get go.

Supporting characters are also given the opportunity to shine. Raquel Sciacca is just adorable as Flounder, a role she shares with Gabby Blum, and Ari Spiegel is terrific as the crabby crustacean Sebastian who is tasked with keeping an eye on Ariel. Hailey Elberg as Scuttle the Seagull also deserves accolades for her number “Human Stuff” — squawk!

However, it is Erika Hinson as the meanie Ursula who steals the show. Her rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” during last Saturday’s show brought the house down.

Take it from someone who has reviewed a lot of plays — make SPAC’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” a part of your world. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available. Stay after to meet Princess Ariel and Prince Eric in the lobby for photographs.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” through April 28 with special spring break performances from April 22 to 26 at 1 p.m.

Up next, catch one of only seven performances of “Les Miserables” Teen Edition from May 18 to June 2 and a summer production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” from July 13 to Aug. 28. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photos by Courtney Braun

*This article has been revised to correct the name of the actress who played the role of Flounder during the March 16 performance. We regret the error.

From left, Shane McGlone, Makayla Connolly, Lizzie Dolce, Meaghan Maher, Danny Feldman and Olivia Freiberger

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.

Meaghan Maher as Ariel. Photo by John Gadbery

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?

Ursula and her minions Jetsam and Flotsam. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

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.