The Little Mermaid
Brightlights Theatre School – Loughborough Town Hall
10th June 2023
Brightlights are a performing arts school in the Coalville & Loughborough area, who give young people aged 4-18 a chance to take to the stage and be part of a full production of a popular musical. Since February 2023, this talented bunch have been working on ‘The Little Mermaid’, Disney’s timeless classic 1989 film which went on to have a short-lived life on Broadway as a proper musical. The results of all of their hard work were seen yesterday (10th June 2023), where they performed the show in full to two audiences containing a lot of proud families, and received a lot of admiration in return.
‘The Little Mermaid’ takes us “under the sea” to meet Ariel (played here by Erin Danvers), a mermaid who longs to learn more about the human world above the waves. A shipwreck sees Prince Eric (Harley Poxon) nearly drowned, and Ariel saves him, quickly falling in love with the human stranger. Her father King Triton (Michael Welton) is enraged that Ariel keeps visiting the surface, and he forbids her to see Eric, devastating her. She runs (swims!) into the tentacles of her wicked aunt Ursula (Lara Ninan), who offers to make Ariel human to be with Eric, in exchange for her voice. Ariel has three days to gain “true love’s kiss” from Eric without speaking, while Ursula plots a darker scheme to gain total control of the ocean.
‘The Little Mermaid’ isn’t an easy show to deliver, and Brightlights have done a fine job here. With the equivalent of 5 days’ rehearsal overall (just 3 hours a week), they’ve been able to tell the original story, learn those classic songs, create sets and costumes, along with all of the technical wizardry needed to run the show, and they’ve made it look great. The creative team (producers Patrick Croft and Nick Sutcliffe and director Alex Turner have no doubt had a hugely demanding few months pulling this together, and they should be very pleased with the outcome. The story remains as engaging as ever, and the score (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman for the film songs and Glenn Slater for the Broadway additions) sounds fantastic, reminding us just how good these songs were and how they haven’t aged. The musical somehow has a power to not sound nearly 35 years old, and children discovering it today fall under its spell just as easily us 40-year-olds did back then (helped also by the recent live-action film adaptation). The fuller Broadway musical bombed on its release which means we’ll probably never see a professional production in this country. This is a real shame, as the musical contains some of Menken’s best songs, not to mention one of Disney’s best villains in octo-diva Ursula.
This is a school production and while performances do inevitably range in ability, that’s not what this production is about. It’s a chance for children to do something they love, have their confidence boosted and maybe set them on a future career path. You can see how much they’re all enjoying it, and that’s what matters. Having said that, Erin Danvers does make a fantastic Ariel with a wonderful voice, making “Part Of Your World” and some of the additional Broadway songs look effortless. She hopefully has her sights set on more stage work. Lara Nina is also great as the villainous Ursula, vamping it up and delivering the legendary “Poor Unfortunate Souls” really well.
“The Little Mermaid” is five months of hard work crammed into a 2-hour show, and everyone involved should be very proud of themselves. Performing such legendary material to a live audience must be nerve-wracking, and this group took it all in their stride and gave it their all. Brightlights are back with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from 22nd-25th June, and we’re looking forward to seeing it.
‘The Little Mermaid’ was performed in two performances on 10th June 2023.
Brightlights Theatre School’s next production is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, again at Loughborough Town Hall, running 22nd to 25th June 2023 for 6 performances.