“The Little Mermaid,” a Disney animated film and later a Broadway musical, is a balmy but bewildering ride through the land of make believe.
Ariel, the mermaid, is an undersea princess, if you follow the Disney norm; she yearns to have legs, to live above the ocean, and is willing to give up her precious voice so she can connect with a prince with legs.
So, yes, this show has “legs,” a term referring to something or someone with possibilities and popularity to sustain grand box office in the theatrical realm. The Farrington Performing Arts Center’s production, now streaming, is inspired by a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, and boasts a darling princess in Elisha Caneso-Cabasan, who has a requisite sweet voice; a surly but not threatening antagonist Ursula in Nadia Amian, who has the build but not enough thunder to be frightening; and a handsome Justin Basques who looks the part of Prince Eric but possesses a slim voice.
Thus, the recipe leading to a convincing make-believe tale to change a fish tale to legs is lacking ingredients to make the stew stimulating. This is an uneven but likable production. What’s bewildering is the lack of interest in the subsidiary characters: the six sisters, the red crab Sebastian who looks like a lobster (with hands, not claws), for instance.
In the original Broadway version, the sisters wore Heelys (shoes with skates) to simulate gliding, but logically, not a priority here. Miguel Cadoy III, Farrington’s eager and savvy drama honcho who directed and oversaw music, delivers an eye-filling production in the “High School Musical” manner, enabling his cast of mostly students new to acting to become fantasy characters to stage a two-hour show (with a five-minute intermission) to build pride, community and deliver a virtual product with sufficient cheer and energy. Caneso-Cabasan is a senior; Basques, Keith Cabbab as Sebastian the crab and Bernielle Isidro as Chef Louis are 2020 Farrington grads. And Johnric Acosta as Flounder, a Kapalama Elementary fifth grader, are guest troupers in the endeavor.
This is the first cast I’ve seen in any performance – live in the flesh or taped and shown virtually – where the singers-actors don clear face masks in these pandemic times. Certainly, it’s a safety protocol, but surely the masks must interfere with projection and delivery of words and vocals. So: kudos for this mask-erade.
Of course, the score – music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater — includes hit songs “Part of the World” and “Under the Sea.” You’ll smile, and perhaps privately hum, with the joy of recognition.
Families with young children will adore the show, which has a sleek look thanks to a series of slide projections instead of movable sets to designate scenes. These prefab elements enable student productions to project a measure of professionalism at minimal cost and could be the wave of the future in Broadway productions, where these budget-friendly background visuals have started to emerge.
Unlike other streaming shows, available at the discretion of the viewer, “Mermaid” is available only at specified times. Remaining regular performances are at 2 p.m. today (April 25) and May 2, and at 7 p.m. April 30 and May 1. Three performances have been added, at 8:30 a.m. April 28, 29 and 30, to enable schools to tune in, but also open to the public. Tickets are $10 for a single adult (18 and above) and $5 for single students (17 and below), and $20 for a family of three or more people. A streaming code will be sent for each purchased ticket to be used for one device. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.showtix4u.com.