Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Julia Pattison
Theatre Correspondent
11:11 AM 12th February 2024

Disney's The Little Mermaid - A Half Term Treat

Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale of The Little Mermaid was published in 1837 and was incredibly poignant and painful, with a very dark ending, but, "poor unfortunate tale or no, it inspired masses." Much as I love fairy tales, myths, and legends, I’m a sucker for a happy ending and thoroughly approve of the changes Disney made to the classic story when bringing it to the big screen.

York Light has taken on the challenge of following Disney’s philosophy, "We should set a new way to use music. Weave it into the story," and have obviously worked most collaboratively to present their latest production, Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Ariel (Monica Frost)
Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
Ariel (Monica Frost) Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
York Theatre Royal’s stage was the perfect place to create Ariel's world, "full of magic and fantasy; vibrant, colourful, and fun, with modern tech and wizardry alongside lovely music and dance, a delight to the ear and eye". The ensemble musical numbers were absolutely breath-taking, with Under the Sea being a personal favourite—a fabulous feast for the senses—and I could have watched that number over and over again!

From the moment Ariel (brilliantly played by Monica Frost) breezed onto the stage so effortlessly in her hidden Heelys to the fantastic Finale Ultimo with King Triton, Ariel, Prince Eric, and the energetic Ensemble, this production was full of marvellous movement mimicking the motion of under and above the sea; so graceful and serene.

Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
Photo: M Kitchen Photography.
Directed and choreographed by Martyn Knight, who has successfully directed York Light productions for nearly 20 years, along with Assistant Director Kathryn Addison and much-sought-after Musical Director Paul Laidlow, there were safe hands at the York Light tiller, and the result is a sensational show.

Modern tech and wizardry with sound and lighting all helped to create the other world; the storm scene backdrop was particularly stunning, as were the beach scenes—Positoovity featuring Scuttle (Martin Lay) and Seagulls was tap dancing treasure!

Ariel was well supported by her six sisters (Annabel Van Griethuysen, Helen Miller, Madeleine Hicks, Chloe Chapman, Sophie Cunningham, and Sarah Craggs), who made seemingly effortless transitions from one role to the next. Ryan Addyman made a fabulous flounder, and James Horsman was a suitably earnest Prince Eric, whose strong voice soared in his solos, Her Voice and One Step Closer.

It was good to see stalwart member Rory Mulvihill ruling the roost in his underwater kingdom, playing King Triton, his 29th show at the Theatre Royal for York Light since joining in 1985; what a support and encouragement he must be to up-and-coming new members joining. Jonny Holbek relished his role as Crustacean Sebastian; credit goes to him for his wonderful singing and dancing in the iconic Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl musical numbers while rocking his crazy crab costume!

Zany Zander Fick looked as though he was having the time of his life as Chef Louis in the riotous and highly entertaining number Les Poissons, and Neil Wood made a genial Grimsby, establishing a fatherly and caring relationship with Prince Eric.

It was powerful, passionate Pasha Turnbull, though, who stole the show with her delightfully dangerous portrayal of Baddie Ursula (a costume created by Caroline Guy), ably assisted in her dastardly deeds by Flotsam and Jetsam (James Dickinson and Adam Gill), who slithered sensationally in synch, mesmerising us all with their movements. Poor Unfortunate Souls was a real show stopper.

With fabulous flying, marvellous music, awesome sets and costumes, and energetic ensemble scenes, there was something for everyone in York Light’s Little Mermaid, timed perfectly for half-term fun and family entertainment.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid (5+) is on at York Theatre Royal until Sat 17th February 2024