THAT very entrepreneurial Canberra theatre company, Free Rain, has given us a taste of things to come by splashing out on a vegetarian (seafood would have been unthinkable) launch at the National Zoo & Aquarium for its coming production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”.
They’ve brought us “The Phantom of the Opera” and Disney’s “Mary Poppins” in recent years and it is to Disney more than Hans Christian Andersen that the company has turned to in this stage version of the animated film, with music by Alan Menken.
While Free Rain director and producer, Anne Somes, has continued her practice of hiring Sydney actors for the star roles, notably Mikayla Williams as the aforesaid mermaid and former Canberran Tim Dal Cortivo as the prince, this time she’s gone closer to home in snaring prize-winning Canberra director David Atfield to stage the show.
Atfield, the classy director of the late, lamented Company Skylark puppet theatre, hasn’t had much to do with children’s theatre since his production of “Charlotte’s Web” at the Canberra Theatre in 1992, but won a Canberra Critics’ Circle award last year for his original play “Scandalous Boy,” about the boy-lover of the Emperor Hadrian.
Subjected to some pestiferous questions by “CityNews” about the relationship of the Disney version to the original Hans Andersen telling of this painfully tragic love story, Atfield, said, “at least this one’s got a happy ending.”
You can be sure of that – Free Rain is hardly likely to fill us with autumnal gloom when the production takes the stage at the Canberra Theatre in April, preferring to characterise the coming show as “the delightful musical.” Replete with ‘underwater’ movements to be directed by choreographer Michelle Heine and a swag of songs like “Under the Sea”, “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World” it’s to be a crowd-pleaser.
Apart from the two Sydney stars, it looks set to be a feast of Canberra acting, with Steve Galinec as King Triton, Louiza Blomfield as the evil sea witch, Jake Willis as Flounder the fish, Tony Falla as Scuttle the seagull and Fraser Findlay as Sebastian the crab.
“Citynews” music writer Ian McLean, as is usual with these Free Rain productions, will conduct the show and the necessarily lavish set and costumes will be created by another Canberra legend, Cate Clelland.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” at the Canberra Theatre, April 8-17, bookings to canberratheatre.com.au or 6275 2700.
Photographs by Greer Versteeg