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Rep's Mermaid sets its hook in audience

by JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | December 5, 2015 at 3:05 a.m.

The Little Mermaid looms large in the world of wildly successful animated Disney films, and it is now poised to rule the local theatrical realm, judging by the performance that opened Friday night at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre with many little "Ariels" throughout the packed house.

It's difficult to single out what is most endearing about the show -- the great voices, charming costumes, dynamic dancing, a stage design that evokes the sea, or all of the above. Director Melissa Rain Anderson certainly knew how to assemble everything into a seamless whole, choreographer Adam Cates created some fancy footwork, and Rafael Colon Castanera designed costumes that must be seen to be believed.

Katie Emerson makes for a captivating Ariel and has a voice that truly could win the heart of anyone who hears it, as it does with the equally talented object of her affections, Prince Eric, played by Shayne Kennon.

Amy Jo Jackson is a swell villain as Ursula, and Chef Louis (Luke Grooms), Sebastian the crab (Cornelius Davis) and Flounder (DJ Plunkett) are hilarious, as are their costumes. Scuttle the seagull (Ben Liebert) has to be the funniest of all with his mangled language skills, tap dancing and general merriment.

And then there are the songs. Never have I witnessed a thundering spontaneous ovation break out midsong, which happened when "Under the Sea" was belted out by Sebastian and the other sea creatures. Other highlights were "Kiss the Girl," "Part of Your World," "She's in Love," "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and "Daddy's Little Angel."

2 Ring Circus, an aerial and acrobatic troupe from New York, added to the show with midair stunts that compensated for the show being done on terra firma.

The show continues through Jan. 3, with performances at 7 p.m. nightly Wednesday through Sunday, plus matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays and Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Sixth and Main streets, Little Rock.

Seating is reserved and tickets are $30 to $60. More information is available by calling (501) 378-0405 or on the website at

Metro on 12/05/2015

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