Right from the start, Ross Petty’s production of “The Little Mermaid” told the audience this wasn’t going to be your average fish tale. With colourful costumes, cultural references and clever covers of current hits, “Ontario’s o-fish-al musical” made the audience, both children and adults alike, roar with laughter.
Written by Reid Janisse, who also stars as the clownfish, this mermaid story isn’t set in the colourful waters of the Caribbean– it takes place in Toronto’s harbour, which is full of garbage and threatened by development. Produced by Ross Petty, this production marks his 18th year on stage at the Elgin Theatre.
We’re first introduced to a clownfish and a familiar looking sponge wearing pants and tube socks. The latter is a less famous cousin, Sponge Bill Triangle Pants, played by Eddie Glen. Then we meet Angel, played by Chilina Kennedy, our main mermaid. Kennedy has an amazing voice and covers everything from Pitch Perfect to Taylor Swift. She also has three giddy mermaid sisters who all swim across the stage wearing lycra fish tails and rollerskates. It’s Angel’s 18th birthday, and she prepares for her first trip up to the surface with her clownfish sidekick and precocious shrimp, played by Lana Carillo. As the four mermaids perform a song, Auntie Plumbum, played by Dan Chameroy, rolls onto the scene. Blinded by fame and ambition, Auntie Plumbum puts the recorded routine on ‘MerTube’. This consequently attracts the attention of Ogopogo, played by Ross Petty, the evil sea wizard. He has his eyes set on building a casino in Toronto’s harbour, with Angel as his starring act.
Auntie Plumbum owns the harbour, and the rest of the musical is a conflict between Ogopogo’s slithering troupe, and the Mermaids who try to avoid Plumbum from signing away the deed to the harbour. On Angel’s trip up to the surface, she meets the human Adam, played by Marc Devigne, the leader of a group on singing activists who, like Angel, want to save the harbour. The mermaids don’t go down without a fight and after transforming into humans, protest the deal.
The storyline is easy enough for kids to follow, but is punctuated with Toronto-centric jabs and plenty of adult humour to keep us entertained. The musical numbers are energetic and sweet, and a mute duet between Angel and Adam in the second act was brilliantly choreographed and written. Both kids and adults will enjoy the covers of songs which are often pulled from the airwaves. The story also has a few instances of audience interaction, which gets kids excited. Kids will also see Jordan Clark starring as Eris, who slithers and dances across the stage effortlessly. Clark is a star from Family Channel’s The Next Step, and a former winner of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and her star power translates well onstage. The company dancers in Ogopogo’s eel troupe are also fun to watch. It’s not often we see contemporary ballet performed in iridescent lycra set to modern pop music. Chameroy often stole the scene with great character acting, even if Auntie Plumbum was falling over her rollerskates a couple of times.
While the ending ties up too easily in a dance-off, the kids get involved and the energy and humour carries on throughout the musical. “The Little Mermaid” is silly and fun, and enjoyable for everyone from a six year old to her 25-year-old cousin that lives on Queen West. The musical is on stage at the Elgin Theatre from November 22 till January 4.