Despite both having ocean-themed titles, not many people plan a weekend to New York that includes both "The Seafarer" and "The Little Mermaid." Contrary to the buzz I had heard and the reviews that just came out, I found "Mermaid" a very enjoyable evening, my favorite Disney stage show I've seen except for "The Lion King" -- meaning better than "Tarzan," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aida," "Mary Poppins" and the stage version"High School Musical."
In full disclosure, I did write an article for Disney's website about the title star of the show. I also asked for and received Disney stock for my Bar Mitzvah, and every year I looked forward to the annual stockholder's yearbook with Michael Eisner's photo and heartwarming message. Though I can't admit to being one of those Disney obsessives like some people are. I'm currently listening to Steve Martin's autobiography on CD in my car -- and he practically grew up in Disneyland, performing in magic shops and pinning price tags to tropical hats. I didn't even make it out to the "Enchanted" experience at the El Capitan. I wanted to, but I haven't. That explains my half-assed Disney obsession right there. Seriously, I'm a complete amateur compared to some people I hear about.
"Little Mermaid" has its three core solid songs, and there were all done well. And even the new songs that plagued all these Disney shows (the ones that inevitably get skipped on 'The Lion King" Broadway cast recording) are not embarrassing, and one, "She's in Love," I'll admit, is kind of charming. Of course, the stage version of "Under the Sea" could never match the incredible scene from the film, with its ever-quickening cuts from one bizarre sea creature to the next (and hand-drawn, no less). The dancing never got fast enough for me, but I don't think it ever could, especially since most of the dancers legs were encumbered by their fins and scales and tails and whatever else was protruding from their bodies. And in "Kiss the Girl," I missed the frogs coming up out of the water singing "sha-la-la-la-la." But the staging was still quite beautifully done. Rarely are visuals a big draw for me in anything -- movies, musicals, etc. -- but "Little Mermaid" is an exception -- all those colors and lights really did add to my emotional experience in this one. Oh, and I thought those heelys -- the show's much-hyped shoes with wheels that all the performers use to scoot around the stage -- actually do kind of make people look as if they're swimming around.