A column by Amanda and Patrick Burger
Since my retirement, I rarely venture back into Ottawa; however, upon learning that one of our most recent candidates for Member of Parliament, Kelsey Catherine Schmitz (NDP), was performing in this community theatre production, that meant this show was one I had to see; and I was not disappointed. The Little Mermaid, from Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet (ASNY) Productions, directed by Jennifer Fontaine, was a delight. From the overture I was hooked by the whimsical use of lighting gobos to depict swimming fish upon the walls of the theatre. It was clear from that point on that creativity would abound in this production.
As the curtains opened, we saw Ariel (Asia Csabi) on stage alone, and, as she began to sing, it was evident this is a young woman with talent. Her clear, sweet voice filled the theatre and transformed the space into Ariel’s world. The show moved smoothly and animatedly from that point on. Flounder, played by Maya Chow, was sweet, especially with the use of fins in the costume placed on either side of her face. Her subtle acting ensured a depiction of a steadfast friend throughout the show. The minimalist set enhanced the feel of the ocean where, with a cast of 39, it was filled with a multitude of aquatic life. In particular, the movement and the inventive costumes of Flotsam (Kaylee Ross) and Jetsam (Emma Deeks), as electric eels, was brilliant. Yet, it was Ursula’s costume which hit #1 on the technical aspects of the show. I don’t know how they made the six other Octopus arms of the costume move, but they were animated throughout the show adding to the feel of Ursula’s wickedness.
Once Scuttle entered the stage, played by Liam Gosson, I began to worry, as the depiction of the beloved Disney Character is so important to the humour of the show. My fear dissipated quickly. Liam was a joy to watch. His timing was excellent and he was so convincing as the eccentric seagull and self-proclaimed expert on human objects. We all know the importance of Sebastian, and Lesley Hammill’s voice and Jamaican accent did this character justice.
There were many highlights in this production. Of note Anna Dale as the Mersister Aquata had (other than Asia Csabi) the most stage presence of the cast. In truth all the Mersisters were great, and Maggie Dale (Adella) and Katherine Harb (Atina) were no exception. Of the non-starring roles, Mercedes Rivoire’s physical depiction of a seagull was lively and realistic. It was a pleasure to watch her on stage. The choreography by Jacqueline Armstrong and apprentice choreographer Emma Deeks (who also played Jetsam) was a unifying element in the show. The “Under the Sea” scene was fanciful and filled the stage with glorious movement, as did the tap dancing seagulls to the song “Positoovity”.
The only scene that did not fulfill expectations was the destroying of Ariel’s grotto and treasure by her father Triton. Not that Elliot Greenberg’s depiction of Triton was lacking, but rather the staging lacked a sense of actual destruction. The use of the lighting and music, and the lack of movement, including no actual rending of the grotto belied the needed impetus for Ariel to leave the world she knew and to defy her father.
Kelsey Catherine Schmitz as part of the ensemble was fun, especially as one of Ariel’s maids in the Prince’s employ. “(ASNY) does a lot with new emerging artists,” Kelsey said during our interview, “Theatre is so good for young people, they can show the full depth of themselves.”
In fact, approximately half of the cast of this year’s production of The Little Mermaid were new to this company. The importance of the arts in our communities, and community arts in particular, is part of what creates strong communities. Although the matinee was filled with children and their parents, this production will please anyone, adults and children alike.
ASNY’s production of The Little Mermaid continues on Feb. 8 and 9, 2020, at Meridian Theatres @Centre Point, with performances Saturday evening at 7:30 pm and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm. Ticket costs range from $39.96 – $55.96