Saturday, July 21, 2007

Little Mermaid: No Treading Water Before The Boards

Little Mermaid: No Treading Water Before The Boards

Despite the box office mojo Disney has enjoyed with each of its five Broadway musicals, it hasn't received uniformly lavish praise since its stage adaptation of The Lion King hit the boards of the New Amsterdam Theatre an astounding ten years ago this fall.

Much has changed during that time. With few exceptions (like Wicked) large-scale spectacles are most definitely passé, tending to create a bit of a critical backlash, even if throngs of the theatregoing public takes it in. The Tony success of Spring Awakening, Avenue Q and even Jersey Boys serves to verify that point.

Against that sea change comes Disney's The Little Mermaid, which must either swim against that tide or ride the current. As yesterday's Variety reports, Disney is all too aware of the obstacles around which they must navigate. Indeed, Francesca Zambello is helming this expensive ship of a production without the use of some of the magic one might have expected in the retelling of the Disney film that was instrumental in restoring the House of Mouse's animation legend. Zambello is eschewing both water and wires and apparently will rely on the book, score and performances to capture the audiences' attention.

Will the simple, yet hardly inexpensive (thanks in part to various prototypes for what ultimately became a transluscent set design), approach satisfy not only the audiences who expect nothing less than bona fide Disney magic, but also the Big Apple critics? Sight unseen, the tuner -- which opens at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on December 6 -- has already raked in an $8 million advance at the box office with virtually no advertising.

With its Denver out-of-town tryout beginning Thursday, the buzz will begin soon enough. I'll be in the audience at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Ellie Caulkins Opera House for the production's second-to-last performance prior to swimming off in October to that island known as Manhattan -- I'll let you know whether this Little Mermaid has legs.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Denver tickets.
Click here for Broadway tickets.
Related Stories:
Mermaid Casting Anything But Little (March 20, 2007)
Beauty Out On Broadway (January 17, 2007)
Disney Moves from Continent to Continent (May 22, 2006)

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At 25 July, 2007, Blogger Nicole said...

Oooh, I can't wait to hear what you think! I'm really excited for this show.

At 25 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

You know what? So am I!


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