Sara Krulwich/The New York Times/Redux
Steve Daly
January 18, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Little Mermaid (2007)

type
Stage
Current Status
In Season
run date
11/03/07
performer
Sierra Boggess, Sherie Rene Scott
director
Francesca Zambello
author
Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Doug Wright

We gave it a C

In 1989, Disney’s The Little Mermaid — buoyed by Howard Ashman’s witty lyrics and Alan Menken’s lilting melodies — delivered such a fresh, briny kick that it helped launch a renaissance in cartoon movies. No such bracing air accompanies the new Broadway version. The show comes on like a tacky nautical-themed bathroom in a Vegas hotel where everything’s made of plastic and slathered in fluorescent glitter.

Numbers lumber on and off stage like rickety carnival floats, and innovative opera director Francesca Zambello seems powerless to help her cast overcome the clunky, ugly scenery and awkward, unflattering costumes. Despite the beautiful high notes hit by perky newcomer Sierra Boggess as Ariel, the daddy-defying mer-teen in love with a human prince (Sean Palmer), you’re likely to fixate on her unconvincing tail. The under-the-sea members of the company are also made to simulate aquatic agility by swanning about on wheeled footwear, and the resulting arms-akimbo body language doesn’t feel floaty at all — it more evokes a Xanadu where nobody’s in on the campiness. Ten new songs by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater fall well short of the core originals. How did they pile so much uninspired window dressing on such terrific source material? Unfathomable. (Tickets: 212-307-4100)

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