The Little Mermaid – The Academy of the New Church

The Little Mermaid by the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA

April 27, 2022

Review submitted by Audrey McCollum of Upper Merion Area High School

I can say with “Positoovity” that the Academy of the New Church’s production of The Little Mermaid was truly “Beyond My Wildest Dreams!”

The show follows Ariel, a mermaid princess who rebels against her father’s hateful view of humans and dreams to leave the ocean. When she eventually saves the man of her dreams from drowning, she decides she must make her way to land, even if that means making a deal with the abhorred sea witch, Ursula. Unfortunately, the deal takes away her beautiful voice, and she falls head-over-fins into trouble. But, even in the direst of times, her devotion to her prince carries her on in this tale of forbidden love.

Captivating the audience with her angelic voice during “Part of Your World” was Anya Durand as Ariel. Perfecting Ariel’s childlike infatuation with the human world, Durand’s portrayal of the yearning, ambitious mermaid had the entire audience just as entranced by her as Prince Eric was. Alongside Ariel was Evan Buss, who portrayed Prince Eric. With Buss’s gentle demeanor and a strong performance during “Her Voice,” it was easy for the audience to understand why Ariel gave up her voice for the man.

The Little Mermaid wouldn’t have been complete with Ariel’s anxious and neurotic companion Sebastian, played by Christopher Fox. Fox’s accented and unique voice shined in “Kiss the Girl,” and he was consistently hilarious in his attempts to not become the next meal prepared by the eccentric Chef Louis (Ainsley Odhner). Terrifying not only Ariel but everyone watching was Maggie Stine as Ursula, who ensured that her every word, whether it was lamenting her life story or performing “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” was dripping with malice. Ursula wouldn’t have been complete without her companions, Flotsam (Ainsley Odhner) and Jetsam (Meg Matsukawa), who were entrancing during numbers such as “Sweet Child.”

The ensemble was always ready to jump into action, dancing along to an oceanic rhythm in “Under the Sea” and following quick comedic timing in “Les Poissons (Reprise).”

Constructing the “Fathoms Below” was the talented ANC Stagecraft, who made the production beautiful to watch. However, the pretty sets wouldn’t have been complete without ANC Costuming Class’s stunning costumes. Ursula’s tentacles and Flounder’s shimmering fins ensured that the show was impossible to look away from.

“If Only” I could see Academy of the New Church’s Little Mermaid again and again!

_____________

Review submitted by Evelyn Walker of Conestoga High School

Academy of the New Church made a splash with their first musical since 2018, The Little Mermaid. Impressive technical elements, character voices, and fast-moving dialogue brought new life to the classic show.

The Little Mermaid premiered on Broadway in 2008 and is closely based on Disney’s 1989 film of the same name. It tells the story of a young mermaid, Ariel, who is fascinated by the human world. When she trades her voice to a sea witch for legs in the hopes of wooing a human prince, Ariel discovers not only a new world but the power of home and family. 

The students displayed proficiency in character building along with set and costume production. Many scenes involved a flying system through which cast members were suspended above the stage. This system added to the performance and allowed the students to display their acrobatic abilities. Overall, the show was impressive in both technology and performance. 

Anya Durand shone as Ariel, having perfected the character’s voice and giving the audience a sense of nostalgia. Her vocal control was impressive, especially during the classic song “Part of Your World”, during which she swam above the stage on the flying system while belting, a feat which requires both core strength and incredible breath control. Durand was also a strong physical actor, especially when her character was trying to walk on human legs for the first time. Durand worked across from Evan Buss, who received the phone call that he would be playing Prince Eric just days before the show opened after the original actor could no longer go on. Not only did Buss have his lines and blocking fully memorized, but he also performed with emotion and a strong voice. 

Tara Pitcairn, who played Scuttle the seagull, flew onstage at the beginning of the show and had impressive physical acting throughout. She displayed strong dancing ability during the upbeat tap number “Positoovity” and kept the audience laughing. Christopher Fox’s Sebastian was consistently high-energy and fun to watch. Fox had a beautiful voice, which especially shone during “Kiss the Girl”. Working alongside Ainsley Odhner’s Chef Louis, Fox performed a hysterical chase scene following the raucous number “Les Poissons”. 

The technical elements were especially difficult for this show, with the flying system, a motorized boat, and even an explosion onstage. The crew handled all these elements well and carried out difficult scene changes with ease.

The cast of The Little Mermaid at the Academy of the New Church made audiences “part of their world” and brought them on an exciting adventure both on land and under the sea. 

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