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Families will take positive messages of inclusion and tolerance from it.My guest was Disney’s target audience: a 14-year-old female “Mermaid” film fanatic named Jaime.Bet on it: This tiny kid’s gonna be a big Broadway star (hey, it’s not homerism when she obviously hit a home run).More propitious is its faithfulness to the beloved 1989 film, which all but guarantees the show a long life in Times Square.All I can say is that corkscrews are for bottle-opening, not for undersea set-anchoring.As might be expected, the familiar songs are the strength of the score, while much of the new material doesn’t quite flow together yet.Ironically, it’s only when the story moves to dry land that we start to encounter real staging problems.At the messy climax, we don’t know whether we’re in water or on dry land.
One moment we’re on the ocean’s floor, mingling with fishies gliding around effortlessly on their “heelie” shoes; the next Eric’s ship lowers until it hovers just a few feet above the stage, the waving plastic strips underneath creating the sense his ship is floating on water. Despite the intoxicating spectacle — and there is lots of it — Zambello wisely isn’t trying to fool anyone into thinking we are actually underwater, or that her human actors don’t really have legs.
There are those who will quibble with its liberties — Prince Eric’s wedding to disguised sea witch Ursula is replaced by a silly singing contest, for example — but this expanded telling from an essentially slight source solves far more storytelling problems than it introduces.