Flounder (Megan Taylor), Ariel (Sophie Atherton), King Triton (Archie Danbury) and Sebastian (Metinee Affleck) in a scene from Berzerk Productions’ The Little Mermaid Richard Whitelock Photography
There is nothing fishy about this Christmas production of The Little Mermaid: the young cast are clearly having a swimmingly good time in bringing the classic story to life.
Berzerk Productions are at the Oakwood Centre until Sunday, December 21, for the Berkshire premiere of Disney’s take on the popular tale. The youth theatre group is taking the Bearwood Theatre Under The Sea in the hour-long show which is excellent from start to finish. It’s packed with big musical numbers, great dancing and a very familiar story.
The show starts before the curtain even comes up as we see the ensemble cast preparing to set sail for adventure. With so much rigging climbed and decks scrubbed, the floors of the Oakwood Centre should be sparkling by the end of the run.
A bright, eye-catching and finely choreographed musical number opens the show. With a lot of the cast dancing around a small stage area, the high tempo number really is impressive.
The bar is set high and remains high as the show bubbles along at a rate of knots as Ariel (Sophie Atherton) meets her Prince Eric (Charlie Harrington) and falls in love.
It is both a charming romance and a tale of derring do, as Ariel is a mermaid and Eric is a landlubber. In order to spend time with her love, Ariel trades her voice for her legs in a deal with evil Ursula (Martha Roper). Of course, it all has a happy ending.
The cast is superb. Sophie’s Ariel manages to convey the innocence, beauty and fear, especially when she is mute. Her voice is stunning and she is a real a natural on the stage. Her romance with Charlie’s Eric is convincing and you believe that the pair are in love.
Ariel is helped by some great friends. Megan Taylor’s facial expressions as fishy Flounder are perfect, while Karina Parker’s Scuttle the seagull was clearly having fun as flapped her way to help.
A lot of work has gone into Metinee Affleck’s stunning performance as Sebastian the crab. She has to click her claws while delivering lines and she manages to be smart and sassy, bringing out the humour in the right moments.
Evil Ursula was well judged by Martha Roper, managing to resist the temptation to chew the scenery with her pantomime villain-esque character. She was ably abetted by Kara Jehan and Moneka Prato as Flotsam and Jetsam. Their make-up, costumes and stage movements made it look as if their were twins.
The cast also included Archie Danbury’s King Triton – always hard to play an older man, but he managed well and James Woolaghan as Grimsby, Eric’s servant and confidant.
A large supporting cast managed quick changes and make-up adjustments with aplomb. During each of the musical numbers they give it their all and the choreography for the show is fantastic. This is really evident during Under The Sea, a real interactive on-stage carnival with bubbles, balloons and a guest appearance by Nemo.
The multi-tiered set uses clever lighting to be both land and sea and is used to great effect throughout.
Add in some superb costumes and bright make-up, a lot of willingness and a catchy soundtrack, this is another Berzerk high.
Being an opening night, it was not without teething troubles but the cast took everything in their stride.
The acid test is what a younger audience made of it. My seven- and four-year-old came out buzzing and haven’t stopped talking about their favourite moments. Crucially, it was a hit and they want to see it again.
Normally five stars is the highest you can give, but this needs six. Bravo Berzerk, bravo.
The Little Mermaid is at The Oakwood Centre, Woodley until Sunday, December 21. There are a few tickets left for each performance. For details, visit Berzerk’s website.