Erin Roche is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Vocal Performance, a strong theater background, and an even stronger desire to showcase the best that Chicago talent has to offer.
Kari Yancy, Devin DeSantis and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis. Photo by Liz Lauren.
Review: THE LITTLE MERMAID at Paramount Theatre
By Erin Roche
Years ago, when I heard that THE LITTLE MERMAID was getting a Broadway rendition, the 6-year old inside me did a little celebration dance. As a natural redhead, a Disney fan, and a singer myself, I of course identified with Ariel and couldn’t get enough of life Under the Sea. This is why when faced with choosing who to bring with me to the Paramount, I could only imagine one scenario: the two little girls I’ve been babysitting for four years. Now, as a Disney fan, I naturally have a few mermaid crowns lying around, and the three of us donned them, took pictures in front of the mermaid rock in the lobby, then happily listened to the overture play, excitedly awaiting our favorite Princess’s debut.
The Paramount is lovely because they do these grand productions so well without ever skimping on talent. Devin DeSantis wowed as Prince Eric. As he sang, I couldn’t help but think of how wonderfully he would play the role of Chris in Miss Saigon (if he hasn’t already). Casting directors take note. The chemistry between DeSantis and Yancy as Eric and Ariel was electric, especially during their suave dancer numbers. The mersisters were quirky and adorable (just like their costumes — bravo, Theresa Ham). Jonathan Butler-Duplessis managed to act and sing Sebastion expertly, and I mean that to apply to both the actor and his puppet. And of course, Christina Hall as Ursula must be mentioned for her playful take on the sea witch, switching from melodramatic alto to east coast bravado with ease.
My favorite moments came from George Keating (as Grimsby and Chef Louis) and Adam Fane and John Adam Keating (as Flotsam and Jetsam). George Keating is just hysterical and takes the word animated to another level. Both adults and children alike were giggling in their seats. Flotsam and Jetsam took their harmonies to chilling depths (pun intended) and were delicious in their portrayal of Ursula’s henchmen.
And now, for the Princess you’ve all been waiting for, Kari Yancy! As Ariel, Kari is the quintessential little mermaid. She sounds like her, she looks like her — she was the 1989 cartoon come to life. That very specific balance of an innocent and lilting voice with a strong belt that is a trademark of Jodi Benson (the original voice of Ariel and also Thumbelina) is present here, perfect for the role of a lovestruck 16-year old. The “Part of Your World” number had a smattering of young children whisper-singing along, and it was just as adorable as you’re picturing.
While THE LITTLE MERMAID is, at first glance, a kids show — do not be fooled. There is more than enough for adults to enjoy just as much as children. Ariel asks, to no one in particular, “What if home isn’t the place where you were born? What if it’s a place you have to discover for yourself.” Sure, maybe you aren’t a mermaid selling her voice for a chance at marrying the human Prince, but perhaps you are a student moving away to college or a project manager taking a work relocation you weren’t expecting? Ah, theater. The great equalizer.
I left the Paramount with a smile on my face, two fewer mermaid crowns (a 25-year old really only needs one, right?) and with a dream come true — I had seen The Little Mermaid come to life! An undeniable treat for friends and family of any age and well worth the ticket price. From soaring aerial flights across the stage to beautiful ballads and enthralling storytelling, this fairytale with fins is never short on enchantment.