Keeper of the Plans

Seeing MTW’s ‘The Little Mermaid’? Expect nonstop fun on stage

Sebastian the Crab (Lawrence Cummings) leads the company in “Under the Sea,” directed and choreographed by Linda Goorich for the Music Theatre Wichita production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” playing August 8-18 at Century II.
Sebastian the Crab (Lawrence Cummings) leads the company in “Under the Sea,” directed and choreographed by Linda Goorich for the Music Theatre Wichita production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” playing August 8-18 at Century II. Courtesy

Life truly is better under the sea.

At least that’s what you’ll leave Music Theatre Wichita’s “The Little Mermaid” thinking.

The show, which runs this weekend and next at Century II’s Concert Hall, is a delight from start to finish — a colorful, sparkly affair that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the ear.

MTW did a production of “The Little Mermaid” in 2011, one of three in the country chosen to do so — but this version is much different than that particular iteration of the show (in a good way, I’d say, as one who’s seen both versions).

The action seemingly never stops. In many musicals, it’s possible to tune out for a few minutes, think about what you’re having for breakfast tomorrow, and then drop back into the scene.

Director and choreographer Linda Goodrich excels at keeping the show flowing along at a brisk pace.

Music Theatre Wichita's "The Little Mermaid" opens Aug. 8 at Century II's Concert Hall. To help you get in the mood, watch some rehearsal footage of the show. Courtesy: Music Theatre Wichita

Audiences are sure to love Tatum Grace Ludlam, who is charming and affable as the mermaid Ariel. She can belt a mean “Part of Your World.”

Opposite her is Jake Smith, whom MTW audiences last saw as Lewis in “Pippin.” Smith once again plays royalty here, as the lovelorn Prince Eric. He and Ludlam have impressive on-stage chemistry.

The most joyful performance of the night, though, came courtesy of Lawrence Cummings, here reprising the role of Sebastian the crab.

Cummings brought the house down with the rollicking “Under the Sea,” which was a dizzying array of color, dance and song — perhaps the most exciting scene of MTW’s 2018 season.

I’d say it was the highlight of the summer. Frankly, if someone asked me what MTW was all about, I’d direct them to this scene first.

The costumes (repurposed and reimagined from the 2011 creations by Leon Dobkowski), the scenery (by J Branson), just ... everything is over-the-top colorful.

There’s never a shortage of things to look at on stage, either.

Other notable performances:

Karen Robu (Ursula) was, once again, a crowd favorite.

James Heinrichs (Flounder) returns to the MTW stage after last playing Chip in “Beauty and the Beast.” Heinrichs, 10, has a particularly cute scene wherein he sings about Ariel being in love and dances with her mermaid sisters.

Elliott Mattox (Scuttle) is amusing as Scuttle, the know-it-all seagull Ariel befriends on land. That particular character’s role was greatly expanded in the musical, and he provides a good many laughs.

The finale, a reprise of “Part of Your World” sung by the entire company, left me with goosebumps. The audience started applauding before the song was even over.

It’s Disney. You’ll like it (especially if you or your kids enjoy the 1989 animated film).

It’s a heartwarming musical that teaches a lesson without doing so in a preachy way.

What more could you ask from a little mermaid?

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‘THE LITTLE MERMAID’

When: First-weekend shows: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Aug. 10-11; 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 11-12; and 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12. Second-weekend shows: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18.

Where: Concert Hall, Century II, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $34-$69 for evening performances, $32-$66 for matinees, from the Century II box office, by phone at 316-265-3107 or online at www.mtwichita.org. Student-rush tickets available for half-price on a first-come first-serve basis at the box office two hours prior to every showtime.

More information: Show is rated G. Running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes. Children must be 5 years old to attend, except at the special 2 p.m. matinee Aug. 18, where children 3 and older are allowed.

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