The Little Mermaid Jr at Kings Theatre, Southsea REVIEW: 'Learning skills that will bring them lifetimes of joy and creativity'
Kings Youth Theatre, launched nine years ago, gives youngsters from two to 18 the opportunity to explore and participate in all aspects of musical theatre, and this 65-minute junior version of the 1989 Disney movie The Little Mermaid, later turned into a 2008 Broadway musical, was a perfect place to start.
This early collaboration of multi-award-winning composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman preceded their huge international success with Beauty and the Beast.It tells the story of a mermaid, Ariel, who dreams of a world above the sea. She rescues a sailor prince from drowning, they of course fall in love and, in a deal with evil seawitch Ursula, the mermaid gives up her voice in return for a taste of life above the waves.And what a voice it is! Evie McClean, only eight, plays the mermaid and it will come as no surprise whatever if her name goes up above West End shows in years to come. Her early solo Part Of My World lit up the show and later efforts confirmed her perfect pitch and a maturity of tone way beyond her years.Ariel’s scenes with the dashing Prince Eric were a delight and credit too to Henry Russell as the lovelorn prince who teaches her to dance before her short time on Earth is over. His One Step Closer solo was strong and clear.
Handsome Henry, only 10, is going to be a heartbreaker and you can see already that he loves being on stage. I must declare an interest here as Master Russell is my grandson.
Daniel Morey as the prince’s adviser Grimsby did well with fewer opportunities while Elsa Lake very much caught the eye as the French chef. Not only was her singing assured, her big number Les Poissons was almost all in French and her diction was perfect.Lucy Ramsay as Ursula, seeking revenge after being banished by King Triton for practising black magic, demonstrated a strong stage presence, particularly when delivering Poor Unfortunate Souls while her henchwomen Flotsam (Lola Horlick) and Jetsam (Niamh Harper), clad in all-black, looked sinister and acted well.The group numbers such as Under The Sea gave a large cast, 71 at the last count, their chance to shine. Their well-choreographed singing was better than their dancing. I didn’t see any budding Fred Astaires but will be happy to be proved wrong.The Youth Theatre had already produced High School Musical in this Disney double-header, director/producer Nathalie Gunn and her team of musical directors Adam Blosse and Heather Uden with choreographer Lucy Saunders introducing a combined 100-plus novices to skills that will bring them lifetimes of joy and creativity.