THE role of Madame Butterfly, Cio-Cio-San, the tragic heroine of Puccini’s opera, “Madama Butterfly”, is one of the most demanding in the repertoire, but soprano Sharon Zhai is up for it. A fully staged version […]
UNDAUNTED by the considerable challenges involved in mounting a show conceived as a stage spectacular, Free Rain Theatre have come up with an imaginative production, which while lacking the professional gloss of some of their earlier efforts, still provides a diverting evening of music theatre. Director, David Atfield, has devised a handsome production enhanced by outstanding choreography, engaging performances from both principals and ensemble, excellent singing throughout, lots of colourful costumes and a first rate orchestra.
In the central role, Ariel, the little mermaid who trades her voice for a pair of legs to win the love of the handsome Prince Eric, Mikayla Williams carries the show with a captivating performance in which she displays her considerable skills as an accomplished singer, dancer and actor. Even when stripped of her voice by her evil Aunt Ursula, Williams, continues to delight with her mimed efforts to persuade her prince to kiss her and break the spell.
As the object of Ariel’s affection, the Disney Prince Eric, Tim Dal Cortivo is required to do little other than look handsome and sing superbly, both of which he manages with panache. His singing of “Her Voice” provided one of the vocal highlights of the evening.
Louiza Blomfield goes close to stealing the show with her dazzling turn as the wicked octopus, Aunt Ursula. Working her fantastic costume for all its worth, and with terrific back-up from David Santolin and Jamie Winbank as her slimy eel offsiders, Flotsam and Jetsam, Blomfield provides a genuine show-stopping performance with her song “Daddy’s Little Angel”.
She receives stiff competition from Tony Falla, also wonderfully costumed, as the language mangling, tap-dancing seagull, Scuttle, whose cleverly performed number, “Positoovity” provides another of the show’s highlights, as does David Cannell with his turn as the manic French chef, Louis, in “Les Poissons”.
Phillipa Murphy (Aquata), Lisa Tredinnick (Andrina), Silvana Moro (Arista), Rebecca Mitchell (Attina), Cara Bessey (Adella) and Kaitlin Nihill (Allana), add to the fun by creating quirky individual characterisations as Ariel’s six sisters, and Jake Willis is quite endearing as Ariel’s most ardent admirer, Flounder.
Colin Milner and Steve Galinec add gravitas portraying the senior characters, Grimsby and King Triton, but Fraser Findlay seems undecided on the right characterisation for Sebastian, the lobster, adopting several different accents in the course of the performance and scuttling sideways, as a lobster would, in some scenes, then disconcertingly , walking around normally, in others. However he was in fine voice for his solos, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss The Girl”, and in the glorious quartet “If Only” in which he was joined by Mikayla Williams, Tim Dal Cortivo and Steve Galinec.
The clever dance sequences created by Michelle Heine are enthusiastically performed by the well-drilled cast, and provide plenty of spectacle, and Chris Neal achieves an excellent sound balance between the singers and Ian McLean’s superb orchestra.
Cate Clelland has come up with some imaginative responses in her set and costume designs, to the challenge of creating a world, above and below the sea for “A Little Mermaid”.
However obvious limitations in the resources available for their realisation, particular for the costumes, has resulted in an over-all lack of cohesion in the look of the show, with supporting characters, notably Ursula and Scuttle, dressed spectacularly, while costumes for others, including surprisingly, Ariel and Prince Eric, were less flatteringly realised.
Some stage-management problems, evidenced in the clumsy use of the scenery flies, and awkward placement of props during scene transitions, also detracted from the first night performance. Despite these small blemishes however there is much to admire and enjoy in this entertaining retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless fairy-tale.