REVIEW: Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID – One Show At A Time

Venue: Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke

Performance Date: 22 March 2023

Reviewer: Leyla Demirel

Following their hit production of Kinky Boots last year, Basingstoke Amateur Operatic Society (BAOS) is back; this time presenting none other than The Little Mermaid. Running at Basingstoke’s Haymarket Theatre from 22nd-26th March, this show is not one to miss.

With the new live-action movie coming out this year, what better way to get ready than taking yourself down to the theatre and seeing the musical? It is all you know and love from the Disney movie, with all the classic songs – ‘Part Of Your World’, ‘Under The Sea’ and ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’, but with some beautiful added numbers too, such as ‘The World Above’, ‘She’s In Love’ and one of my all-time musical theatre songs – ‘If Only’.

You may think it’s ambitious for an amateur dramatic company to take on such a well-loved show like The Little Mermaid, but BAOS, with Owen White and Ryan Stevens directing, have taken this show and done wonders with it! There are the mermaids on wheels, Flounder on a scooter, and beautiful puppets. Skuttle even has his own song. Not to mention, there’s a hot crustacean band, musical direction from Simon Eastwood…(and I suppose also Sebastian the crab)…and if you’re still not sold yet – there’s a real live actual dog in the show!

I saw a run-through of the show in rehearsal – so no completed costumes* or set as of yet, but I was still nearly moved to tears (Leyla, get a grip you’re supposed to be reviewing!). I think this is the most excited I’ve ever been to see a finished production of an am-dram show. If this is the reaction I had from a run-through rehearsal, I cannot wait to see the finished piece in the theatre, where all the final details are added and everything has come together.

*(I did not see the show with finished costumes. But I did get a sneak peek at part of Ursula’s. I just want to say: that skirt, I’d consider turning evil to get hold of).

There was so much passion and enthusiasm in the room that you could feel the energy. It was impossible to not have a smile on my face, get caught up in the show, and get emotional. I found even though I was there to review, I kept getting lost in watching the show and having a wonderful time! The cast are fantastic, every single person who is in that company is giving their all and it shows – their hard work is absolutely paying off. This company could suddenly declare they’re putting the show on tomorrow and I’d have no qualms. Everyone watching would have a joyous time; this is a company that is stage ready.

Rhiannon Mone is taking on the role of Ariel and is a ready-made princess. She has somehow mastered the softness and strength the role requires. Paired with her is Jack Baldwin as Prince Eric who has the boyish charm and infectious joy that Prince Eric is known and loved for, with a voice sure to win hearts. The pair together have a natural and believable chemistry and are a bit of a dream team! Harrison Crangle is taking on the role of the loveable crab Sebastian and running away with it. He has a natural stage presence and even when he’s not speaking, the facial expressions say enough. He has also found the perfect balance between the hilarity and the softer, emotional aspect of everyone’s favourite crustacean. Rounding up the lead roles is Siobhan Branch as Ursula, with Joseph Nelhams and Sam Harrison as her mischievous sidekicks, Flotsam and Jetsam. Now, I know we are supposed to hate the villains. But it’s hard when they’re as wickedly cool as these three are! The sass and stage presence and the way these three are so good at being bad? Fantastic. They all bounce off each other well and are the perfect villains you could wish for.

No show is complete, however, without an ensemble and supporting roles – and every single person who is in the show should be proud of themselves. With choreography from Hollie Parks that is slick, fluid and a wonder of its own, the show is no easy feat…yet everyone is making it look like just that! Keeping the intensity as high as it can be from the first to the final note, there is never a lull at any point and the company as a whole are fantastic at keeping the audience captivated. Adding to this, the energy from ‘Under The Sea’ is more than enough to light your whole home with! That is a show-stopping number all on its own.

BAOS’ production of The Little Mermaid seems well on track to be a wondrously fun night out, full of all the charm and magic you’d wish for in a Disney musical. The company has almost everything ready to go and are just waiting on a few very crucial things: the curtain to go up and captive audiences to watch.

Sebastian is right: the human world is a mess. So why wouldn’t you want to escape your troubles for a few hours with a trip under the sea? Don’t be a poor unfortunate soul and miss out on what is sure to be an enjoyable show to say the least!**

**You’ll be relieved to know there are none of my bad puns in the show.