Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Little Mermaid Swims Into the Palace

When the Palace released their schedule for the 2017/2018 season last May, the spring show was definitely considered a highlight for our household. The Little Mermaid would be gracing the stage for two weeks in March. With our season tickets in hand, Saturday was date night for Wendy and I. After some dinner at a fine, local restaurant, it was off to our Row B seats at the Palace for the Disney classic.

Last year, we took the girls to see The Little Mermaid at the Lockport High School. I thought that performance was very well done, and was curious as to what the Palace could do with a bigger budget and years of experience. I was not disappointed. So far, this was the show of the season. From the cast, to the pit, to the scenery, this show now marks as one of my favorites. (All Shook Up, Guys and Dolls, and Beauty & the Beast are among my favorites.)

Courtesy Palace Theater and Adam Hudson
When we first walked into the theater, the Little Mermaid logo was shining on the curtain. The place was full, with people milling about, talking to each other before showtime. There were a lot of children in the audience, more than we normally see on a Saturday night. That is one of the beautiful things about our local theater. There are so many friends among the audience each night.

When the curtain went up, we were treated to Emily Prucha, as Ariel, sitting on a rock at the surface of the ocean, fantasizing about humans and their lives. Immediately, we are taken back to the opening scenes of the famous cartoon that we all know and love. Emily was simply wonderful in the part of Ariel. She looked magnificent, and her singing juxtaposed so naturally with the singing of Ricky Needham as Prince Eric.

I’ve never seen Needham perform before he took on the role of Ariel’s human love interest. This was his first show at the Palace. I sincerely hope that this was not his only show, and that we get to see him again and again. Needham has an amazing voice. Listening to him sing was one of the highlights for me. His voice echoed through the theater, sustaining the listener with its excellence.

Taylor Carlson played the evil sea-witch, Ursula, to great aplomb. The last time I saw her, she was Mrs. Potts in Beauty & the Beast, so I’ve seen her playing both ends of the spectrum. She can play any part given to her. She can be the sweet Mrs. Potts. And then she can nail it as the lovably evil Ursula. I love that character. Additionally, her singing always amazes me. She is simply a lot of fun whenever she’s on stage.

Courtesy Palace Theater and Adam Hudson
Jake Hayes. What can I say about Jake that already hasn’t been said in my reviews. He is the life of the party whenever he’s on stage. Great comedy requires great timing, and as Sebastian, Jake gives us exactly that. Add in his facial expressions and his singing, and it’s a highlight of every show at the Palace. Rolling around on stage as the hapless Sebastian being chased by Chef Louis or chasing Ariel, Hayes gave us all a bunch of laughs on the evening.

The first thing I have to say about Kyle Bieter as King Triton is that he has bigger cojones than I do. There is no way I would be able to walk around on stage in front of one thousand people each performance without a shirt. His hapless fatherly presence as he attempted to reign in all seven of his daughters had me chuckling with recognition. As a father of four daughters, I have to say that he definitely captured the essence of what I go through daily.

Ariel’s faithful sidekicks, Flounder and Scuttle, played by Rheanna Gallego and Robby Syruws were incredibly funny. Flounder was definitely stuck in the friend zone, which Gallego made humorous and realistic. She always plays a great comedic role. I always enjoy the laughs she brings to the stage. As for Robby, he’s always well suited for any role he takes on. As Scuttle, his portrayal of an awkward bird with all the answers, he flaps around the stage, eliciting laughs from the audience with each move. His singing was positoovely awesome all evening.

Matthew Cullen and Jonathan O’Rourke as Flotsam and Jetsam with evilly funny. As the two rolled around the scenery on stage, they were menacing when they needed to be, and cordial enough to lure Ariel into their trap. O’Rourke has some facial expressions that add to his natural ease in playing any part on stage. Half the fun in watching him is waiting for the next expression to spread across his face. Cullen is a young actor, but shows no hesitation when putting it all out on the stage. Hopefully, he will be a staple on the Palace stage for many years to come. These two have a very bright future on stage.

Courtesy Palace Theater
The first thing I wanted to know when the show was over was if William Curr’s mustache was real. With a positively awesome display of facial hair, Curr played Chef Louis who chased Sebastian around at dinner prep time. Curr seems to be a natural comedian whenever I speak with him, so giving us some comic relief is only natural for him. I wasn’t sure what he was cooking, but he sold it for me….as long as that mustache has a hair net.

Dyan Mulvey Balcerzak once again providing the background dancers for the show and choreographed all the dancers. The young girls who made up the background dancers were awesome. I told Dyan on the way out of the show that watching them made me want to pull my tap shoes out of the attic from when I used to dance at her studio. The dancers added to the excitement across the stage.

I would be remiss if I didn’t send kudos to the pit performers. As always, they give us the best in live music for a live stage show. We are extraordinarily lucky to have so many talented people to not only act on stage, but also accompany on instruments. All together, Chris Parada and the Palace has given us another show to be proud of. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. We have a gem, a treasure in downtown Lockport with our own theater putting on big, productions several times a year. If you haven’t been to a show at the Palace, you’re missing out.

Craig Bacon would like to give a special shout out to the guy playing bass in the pit. No reason why. Mostly because I can. And he’s cool.