Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Little Mermaid

Disney's newest stage production, The Little Mermaid, is being blasted by the reviewers. I'm not terribly surprised actually, after having seen the show. Which I loved every minute of and the box office receipts agree with me. The show has consistently been in the top 5 for the last month, that's made most impressive by the fact that it's only been officially open for 4 days.

For some strange reason, I feel compelled to respond to a particularly scathing review in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail. The review itself is here. Now, as a HUGE fan of the movie, I spent the last two years waiting with baited breath for this show to actually make it to the stage. They've actually been working on it for at least the last 5 years. And knowing Disney, probably longer. TLM is the most popular Princess movie among fans.

The director, costumer and set designer hail from the opera world. Because of that, the show is very different in appearance. Like nothing Broadway has ever seen before. So, IMO, the reviewers hate it for being different and not fitting into the box they've built for Disney Broadway. I for one was entranced with the somewhat abstract way the show was staged. I mean really, how else can you put an ocean environment on a Broadway stage? Yes, some of the staging and choreography fell a little flat, but most Broadway shows fall a little flat in the first couple months of performances. It's the nature of the art form.

My main beef with this particular review is this little piece here:
Wright recasts the story as a dysfunctional family drama writ large: Ursula is Ariel's aunt, upset because she has been banished by her brother for her black magic.

My problem is that the reviewer is assuming that Wright added new material that he came up with on his own. This is not the case. All die-hard TLM fans know that this very plotline hails from 1991 and originated with the writers of the TLM TV cartoon. That episode was never made and the plotline was transferred to the Marvel people to use in their short-lived comic book series. (which is a real shame, because it was superbly done. It took me 4 years, but I finally tracked down all 12 issues) Again, the plotline was never done. So it's been sitting in the Disney vault.

Wright did not make this up. Disney writers made this up. Therefore it is what fans call Disney canon, even though not very many of us like the idea. But Poseiden was Triton's father, so I guess it's conceivable that he could father an octopus too. TLM fans prefer to pretend that Melody and Morgana from TLM 2 just don't exist.

This section of the review is also Disney canon:
Wright also roots Triton's fear of the human world in the death of his wife, who was apparently caught in fishing nets.

Again, this plotline was developed, BY DISNEY, for the comic book series. It was scrapped when Marvel canceled the comic series. The forthcoming TLM 3 movie will address this very thing. Last we heard anyway.

This reviewer also has a major problem with the ending. Yeah, they rewrote it from the movie and yeah it's a bit deflating and kinda flat. But if the reviewer has a way to re-enact Ursula's spectacular death by impalement on a stage, please sir, share it! Because no one else knows how. I'm a Disney traditionalist and I didn't howl at the ending. I wasn't totally pleased with it, but I know it's better than the ending they were using in Denver. It fit with the other changes that were made, and I for one thoroughly enjoyed the fleshing out of Eric's character. He has substance now, he's not just another cardboard Disney prince. Yes he is still entranced by Ariel's voice, but in the show he also realizes that Grimsby is right when he says "A girl of flesh and blood is far better than any dream girl". What's right in front of him may very well be his dream girl. In If Only, Eric is wishing his mystery girl would show up while Ariel wishes he would see her for who she truly is--the mystery girl with the spellbinding voice. And then he ends his part with the realization that if the mystery girl shows up at the singing contest, he may just very well lose this mute girl who's stolen his heart. He's not the least bit surprised when he finds out that this mute girl is his mystery girl. He already knew it anyway.

So there's my soapbox for the month. I've even emailed the critic. Doubt he'll read all of it, but I've done my civic duty as a loyal fan of The Little Mermaid. Movie, tv show, comics and Broadway musical. Now if my cast recording would just hurry up and get here...

1 comment :

  1. Wow, you really know your stuff! I think TLM is one of my favorites too, and it's definitely a favorite with my kids. They'd absolutely love to see it on stage. I think you're right about stuff falling flat being the nature of stage productions, though I'm not an expert on the theatre (theater?)

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