'Little Mermaid' makes a big splash

THE LITTLE MERMAID, presented by Theodor Herzl Primary School and directed by Robin Williams. (Theodor Herzl, today at 9am and 11am, tomorrow at 7.30pm, Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 10am and 7pm). Reviewed by Brett Adkins

THERE'S a scene in this vibrant Robin Williams production that speaks volumes about the enchantment that live theatre still offers.

Even to a brand new generation.

In an age of gee-whiz gadgetry and 24/7 cartoon TV, it is an absolute thrill to hear the collective squeal of delight from an audience of children – many of them pre-schoolers – in the charming kitchen scene where Chef Louis is literally cooking up a storm with innovative sizzling effects.

It is just one of many moments that capture the colourful mood of this much-loved Disney spectacle based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, with its catchy Alan Menken arrangements, which was a Broadway hit and Oscar-winning movie.

A mix of high adventure and blossoming romance, The Little Mermaid is a lovely "tail" for a huge ensemble school cast to tackle – with an assortment of zany and intriguing sea creatures who inhabit the ocean along with some more conventional landlubbers.

But the roles are not only restricted to actual characters – be they as varied as jellyfish, a seahorse, gulls or sailors – but also an element such as water, which of course is always in plentiful supply in a show set mostly in the ocean depths.

For instance, the villain Ursula is a conniving half octopus, half human sea witch and the manner in which her ever-moving tentacles – made up of at least half a dozen cast members – are seemingly attached to her but realistically have a kind of life of their own, is brilliantly executed.

In the title role, Isabella Finestone as Ariel, who dreams of being able to walk and discover the world above the surface, is superb with her solid singing voice, confident stage presence and spot-on characterisation. She immediately makes the role her own and maintains that grasp – a fine accomplishment for such a young actress.

She is matched measure for measure by Zukhanye Kaliko as her love interest Prince Eric, who boasts an equally strong voice and exudes an easy charisma ideally suited to the part.

Evan Davies as Sebastian, the red Jamaican crab assigned to protect Ariel by her father King Triton, has great fun with the comic role and manages the accent admirably.

Well-known numbers such as the calypso-style Under the Sea along with Kiss the Girl and Part of Your World evoke all the right sentiments and coupled with lively and imaginative costuming and sets, the musical provides one magic moment after the next.

Thanks to the likes of Williams, her talented production crew and Theodor Herzl, we can relax in the knowledge that there will be many such moments to come.