Arriving to see StoryBook Theater’s production of A Little Mermaid at Renton's Carco Theater last weekend, the parade of little girls in tutus and sparkly shoes let me know we’d found the right place. With its stated mission to introduce young children to musical theater, StoryBook Theater ably does just that with this delightful, 55-minute show.
Devoted fans of Disney’s Ariel will find that this Little Mermaid production, adapted and directed by Lani Brockman, is a different and unique interpretation of the story. Both, of course, differ from Hans Christian Andersen’s source material.
StoryBook’s catchy songs, splendid costumes and terrific performances will captivate attendees of all sorts, particularly children ages three to ten.
In this version, the young mermaid Sirena (Brittany Menzies) dreams of life beyond her ocean family of two sisters and their grandmother, Memere (Deanna Sakar). Even Memere’s regular words of wisdom (“the ocean’s always bluer on the other side”) can’t keep Sirena from imagining dancing on land with human legs.
Luckily — or not — a two-headed sea slug (Faith Russell and Sarah Russell) offers a way for Sirena to become human and track down her prince, thanks to a tricky gadget the sea slug has found. Driven by love and a thirst for adventure, Sirena makes a huge sacrifice and risks her life to pursue her dream.
When her dream does not come to fruition, and the prince intends to marry someone else, Sirena faces a bitter pill to swallow. Audience members — playing a school of little fish — are given the opportunity to cast a new spell on Sirena and potentially change her fate.
Menzies shines as the earnest Sirena. She sings beautifully and moves swimmingly on stage to portray a believable and cleverly-costumed mermaid. Faith Russell and Sarah Russell, a mother and daughter duo, portray multiple roles but truly stand out as the hilarious two-headed sea slug. Sakar lends her lovely singing voice to the roles of Memere and Princess Adelaide, the princess that the prince chooses to marry. Justin Beal capably portrays the prince. Susan Bardsley, who composed the show’s marvelous original songs, deftly accompanies the actors live on stage.
The show we attended at Carco Theater began more than 10 minutes late with staff attempting to seat all those who’d arrived without advance-purchased tickets. This delay spent precious attention-span minutes of young and wiggly theater patrons already in their seats. Fortunately, StoryBook knows its target audience. At just the right moment in the show, the crowd was invited to participate in welcoming Princess Adelaide, including standing, bowing and curtseying and announcing the princess’s full and very long name. This bit of activity carried even the littlest ones through to the end of the show.
Afterward, audience members were invited to ask questions of the cast, who stayed to sign the programs of their new young fans.
This production is highly recommended for preschool and elementary school-aged children. Parents and caregivers as well will find much to like in this up-tempo show with wonderful songs.
If You Go . . .
When and where: May 5-6 and May 12-13 at Kirkland Performance Center, and May 20 at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Shows are 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 13 shows are ASL-interpreted. Some shows are already sold-out, so if you know you'd like to go, snap them up!
Tickets and info: Storybooktheater.org