Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Little Mermaid (Atlantis Productions)

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Ariel (Rachelle Ann Go) saves Prince Eric (Erik Santos) from drowning. Since then the two start to long for each other with both holding something dear from the other, like her voice for Eric, and some of his human things for Ariel. And so, what is the problem? Ariel is a mermaid, and Eric is no merman. Things get complicated when her father King Triton finds out about the encounter and forbids her to see him ever again. Enter Ursula, the treacherous pugita of an auntie who gives her mermaid niece legs in exchange for her sweet voice. Of course, there is a catch. If the prince does not kiss her in three days, she becomes her auntie’s slave forever. Otherwise, she remains human and lives happily ever after. And so, what will it be? This is an onstage adaptation of the Disney classic and  I do not have to answer that question. Seriously.

The kids would enjoy this most because it is a colorful production with many outlandish song and dance numbers and an overly colorful stage. Falling in love is not something exclusive to adults so the theme is not at all a problem. The dilemma is if you are a twenty something year old guy with a slight aversion to anything colorful. This might not be for you. However, if you have a toddler with you, his or her laughter would be enough to satisfy your inner parent.

Flounder looks like a tribe boy from Mongolia, which is understandable because if they make him look like a round yellow fish he would end up being an eyesore of a mascot on stage. Sebastian looks like a cross between a Thai exotic dancer and a samurai with pincers. The mermaids look like shrimps because of the orientation of their tails, which are attached to their behinds while you still see their legs. The trick works if you concentrate on the body angle and pretend that there are no legs in sight, which means maintaining your eye level a bit raised for the illusion to work. It is cool when it does because it seems like they are floating. This, however, is a little hard to do because you can clearly see their legs bend behind the ruffles when they move onstage. If they moved mimicking the swift mini steps of a Geisha, it could have worked.

So what am I saying? Do not get me wrong, I am not dissing this show. All I am saying is that it is a very ambitious project given the original material. You might have already seen one too many mermaid stories on TV, and even those, with the luxury of post-production, could still not be presented convincingly. What more if it is live! An alternative would be to keep every mermaid in the cast in a harness, which would probably result in the actress resigning the very next day and a special participation from the Commission on Human Rights. Still, I laud the efforts of the theater team behind this show. With all the obvious limitations, they have come up with an enjoyable spectacle.

Auntie Ursula steals the show because of her traffic stopper costume and loud demeanor, not to mention the big band that accompanies her every time she comes out. Go does naive pretty well and hits her notes just right that you cannot help but be glad that these crossover artists are proving their talent in a different platform. They are talented enough to begin with, but you cannot help but wonder what kind of training they are given to make them look like naturals onstage. Santos is a bit off in terms of pronunciation. His diction is labored that it is hard to understand what he is saying or singing most of the time. He also has this minor quirk: his body was twitching. It was jerking from one side to the other during one of his solos. It looked so weird. Maybe he was nervous? Between the two, Go gives the better performance overall.

The red wig. What happened to Ariel’s red wig?

By the way, I arrived late so I did not see Part of Your World. What I saw was Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl. The former felt like a baranggay fiesta with a lot of bubbles, very festive mood. I prefer the latter which started out with an amazing blending of voices later joined by the orchestra resulting in a seamless soundtrack that was so pleasing to the ears, and the eyes too, because of the many animal puppets onstage during that time.

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