REVIEW: ‘The Little Mermaid’ – Theatre Train

I was privileged to be able to see both Sunday performances of this amazing production, showcasing two different casts and indicating just how much young talent TheatreTrain have within their ranks. It would be tempting to compare the two shows and choose the better – but that would be impossible for, although some of the characterisations were different, they were both equally good.

Fred Valvona appeared as King Triton in both performances, dominating the stage and his large family of mermaid daughters. A sterling performance which must have left the actor exhausted by the end of the evening!

Prince Eric, the hero, was ably portrayed by Alfie Luke and Will Watson, both turning in a suave performance and some smooth dance steps, while Hayden Stanford and Lily Romero were both suitably subservient as the prince’s advisor Grimsby, while managing to remind Eric of his responsibilities. One of which, of course, was to marry. And Grimsby had lined up an array of giggling, squabbling princesses who competed with each other hilariously – and in vain – for the Prince’s attentions: his heart was won right at the start when he heard the Little Mermaid singing as he stood on his ship.

Combining the roles of ship’s pilot and Chef Louis, Ann Kulla and Freddie Holme were a delight, especially in the very funny scene which saw the chef trying – and failing – to catch a crab to cook for dinner. For that crab was of course the Little Mermaid’s friend and her father’s court composer, saddled with the task of keeping watch over Triton’s wayward youngest daughter. Jake Eastman and Charlie Cule portrayed Sebastian perfectly, complete with huge red pincers and lively singing and dancing.

Also helping The Little Mermaid were her friends Flounder and Scuttle, played by Taylor Webber Tippins /Mary Sheath  and Logan Haywood/Lily Valvona respectively. It is not easy to portray animal characteristics effectively, let along fish and seagulls, but all four actors did so commendably – and often hilariously.

All good shows have a good villain, and the role of Sea Witch Ursula gives plenty of opportunities for evil cackling and general nastiness, all of which were exploited to the full by Lydia Jones and Sam Sunnucks. Adding to the villainous fun were  sidekicks Flotsam and Jetsam, electric eels who were beautifully and sinuously played by Selena Angelina/Evie Fackrell and Olivia Hughes/Izzy Stringer.

It was of course Florence Bellamy and Ava Cowan who, as Ariel, the Little Mermaid of the title, led the show, and they both shone in the role, engaging the audience’s interest and sympathy as she defied her father yet saved his kingdom and won the heart and hand of the prince, and Triton’s agreement to the match. For, as he noted, parents have to let their children go and live their own lives, hard as it is.

However, as so often, the success of the show rested not only on the talented leading actors but on the team supporting them both on and offstage. Triton’s kingdom was populated by delightful singing and dancing mersisters and beautifully attired sea creatures as well as the trumpet fish Windward (Sasha Bell and Annabelle Brown), while the sailors on board Prince Eric’s ship portrayed the storm perfectly, then doubling as dancing seagulls. The team of chefs and maids worked well together and a mention must be made of the junior chorus who performed beautifully, to many ‘aah’s from the audience – some future stars of the stage there!

The wonderful costumes and sets added to the enjoyment of the show, as did the lighting effects, and the adult teachers and directors are to be congratulated for their vision and leadership, but it was each member of the cast who convinced me the action was taking place (in part) under water by their body movements and characterisation. Well done all! I look forward to the next TheatreTrain production with interest.

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