In all its years North Frontenac Little Theatre has provided opportunities for children and youth to become involved in theatre. It has gone much further than most community theatre companies in this direction, but with the Little Mermaid it went even further. Most of the musicals the company has put on have had younger actors in them often taking lead roles, such as Annie, Anne of Green Gables, the Miracle Worker, Peter Pan and Tom Sawyer
But with the Little Mermaid, all of the actors were children, with one exception and that was only at the very end. The adults who volunteer with the little theatre, the costume and set designers, back stage workers, directors, choreographers and lighting technicians, all devoted their time and energy to a children’s production in this case. The young actors had the benefit of the collective skill and efforts of a couple of dozen adults in this production and they used it well.
And the more experienced young actors, in particular Sidney Drew (The Sea-Witch) Annika Putnam (Clem Clam) and Mackenzie Drew (Ships Cook) took on mentorship roles, providing some of the leads, Sophie Neumann (Anemone – The Little Mermaid) and Georgina (Rylee Beattie) with the opportunity to shine, which they did.
The plot-line of the Little Mermaid is based on the fairy tale and adds a few plot twists that borrow from Shakespeare and others. Prince Theodore, played assuredly by the seasoned young actor Mason Moore, is shipwrecked after a storm that was caused by the villainous Sea Witch who was just doing what sea witches do, it seems. Anemone rescues him and falls in love, but retreats before he wakes up, not before appearing to him in his delirious state.
The Shakespearian plot twist comes in when Georgina, a typical Frontenac County teenager if there ever was one, comes across Theodore and he thinks that it was her that saved him, so he offers to marry her. She wants to marry her boyfriend Borgy (Claire Seymour) but Theodore is a Prince so she is convinced to go for the money and fame by marrying him, but seems to want to bring Borgy along with her.
Meanwhile, Anemone, makes a deal with the Witch to become a human, much to the chagrin of her companion (Clem Clam) a character straight out of the Disney animation tradition, the wise-acre side-kick who has all the best lines and Putnam took full advantage.
Before everything gets settled and the correct couples get married, Theodore and Georgina have ample opportunity to pretend to like each other while at the same time letting the audience know how uninterested they really are, in some of the funnier gestures in the entire production.
Sophie Neumann, as Anenome, had less to work with. She can’t speak much of the time because of the Sea Witch’s spell, and she is being pushed and pulled by others through most of the play until she finally has the opportunity to assert herself. Neumann did very well through it all.
The supporting cast was also strong: Braidey Merrigan (Rip-Tide), Joey Beckett (Zip-Tide), Alexi Gray (Queen Neptune & Clara), Esther Hofmann (Princess Atlantis & Sarah), Isabelle Uens, Kaylea Cox, Sloane Putnam, Danielle Gosse, Eva Webster, Rachel Parker, Khloea Cox and Lily Kerr-Schlegel, all added much colour to the show. Paul Gosse, the only adult in production, played the Minister.
Aside from the acting and singing, the pacing of the Little Mermaid was very good and snappy. Scene changes were short, the play got back on track quickly, the actors were in the right place at the right time, except for one brief occasion on opening night when I went, which was more than offset by Annika Putnam, fully in character, delivering an improvised line which went something like “Any time now” as she waited for some actors to arrive on stage.
The sets, by Donna Larocque, were underwater sea blue and very rich in detail, augmented by giant paper mache fish that Jocelyn and Mike Steeves crafted. The costume crew also did a superlative job, the umbrella-based jelly fish costumes being a highlight.
Full credit to Tim White (choreography), Jeff Siamon (Lighting), Greg Morris (Sound), Margo McCullough (stage manager) and Director/Producer Brian Robertson.
The next scheduled production from the Little Theatre is set for the fall of 2018. It is the Red Plaid Shirt, a Canadian play by Michale Wilmot that was first produced last year. Next spring, Boy Wonder, an original musical play by NFLT’s Jeff Siamon, will be presented.