A delightful "Little Mermaid"

Kelrik Productions puts on a family-friendly live version of Disney’s take on the tale

Special to The TribuneMay 22, 2013 

Cassandra Johnson stars as Ariel in Kelrik’s production of "Disney’s The Little Mermaid."

SANDRA CORTEZ PHOTOGRAPHY

Kelrik’s musical version of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” would make Disney proud. With fanciful costumes and colorful sets, the fine cast and ensemble take the audience on a magical trip beneath the sea.

Kelrik’s artistic director, Erik Austin, has once again brought together performers of all ages, from adult professionals to teens to youngsters — the little fishes — to create a show that might make the children in the audience think about going into theater.

The one-hour performance is packed with action, romance, drama, and song and dance. Petite Cassandra Johnson is charming as Ariel, the little mermaid who falls in love with a shipwrecked prince (Greggory C. Riforgiate) and longs to become a human. She must defy her father, King of the Sea (Christian Clarno), and escape the spell of a nasty witch, as well as manage to make the prince fall in love with her, although the witch has stolen her voice.

There are 28 performers in the cast and ensemble as Ariel is surrounded by an assortment of creatively costumed and well-acted creatures and people. Jeffrey Larsen is Sebastian, a lovable crab whom the king entrusts with Ariel’s welfare. In a bright red suit, with outstretched claws, he scuttles sideways and sings and dances.

Landon Echols is Scuttle, the seagull, a comical fellow who has his own version of what the humans own and do. Ursula, the wicked witch, is played to the hilt by Theresa Riforgiate, as nasty as they come. Her sidekicks, a pair of electric eels (Casina Caradonna and Steaphenee Wittlieb) are actually electrified, with glowing neon costumes.

Cody Pettit is blustery as Grimsby, who tries to convince the Prince to stick to his royal duties. Lester Wilson has the funniest moment as a chef, singing “Les Poissons,” as he cuts and prepares fish recipes as Sebastian the crab hides in the kitchen.

The costumes are delightful. The mermaids wear long, tight skirts, sparkly and sequined, with colorful scallop shells as bras. Each of the many sea creatures has its own identity, with loose, flowing appendages and headgear that make their dancing appear aquatic. Keith Wetzel of Costume Capers is costumer. The lighting also shimmers for a watery atmosphere, and a bubble machine blows bubbles into the audience now and then, to the delight of the kids.

With set pieces that slide in and out, the stage goes from underwater to a ship, to the witch’s lair, to the prince’s castle.

There are 14 lively song-and-dance numbers. Lacey McNamara is musical director, and Danielle Mendoza is choreographer.

On Sunday afternoon the small theater was full, with many pretty little girls in ruffled skirts and fancy shoes in the audience. This bright, fanciful show is just the type of family fare that Kelrik is known for, as the company fills a family-friendly niche that no one else in the region does on a regular basis. Perhaps these performances are partly responsible for nurturing the young talent that continues to grow on the Central Coast. Austin has also added some adult plays to the schedule.

Unfortunately, the Unity property, which has been the Kelrik home, is up for sale, and Austin doesn’t know what will come after this season’s shows are over. He owns all of the extensive lighting and sound equipment and could move into another appropriate space.

Meanwhile, this season will continue with “Urinetown,” an adult offering, and “Shrek the Musical,” a Central Coast premiere, to be performed at Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre.

IF YOU GO

"Disney’s The Little Mermaid"
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Unity, 1490 Southwood Drive, San Luis Obispo
$14 to $20
543-7529 or www.kelrikproductions.org

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