The Little Mermaid On Broadway: It's A Sinker

The Little Mermaid is one of best Disney movies. Sure, it's mildly demeaning to women, with a heroine who literally loses her voice and all, but you gotta love villianess Ursula the Sea Witch (Bitch). And also, the music rocks: Who amongst us does not know every single word to "Part of Your World"? [Me. -Ed.] Well, there's now a Broadway musical adaptation of the film, and, if the critics are piling on. (Frankly, it's a wonder they managed to write any reviews, considering they seemed to be banging their heads against their Playbills at the show's opening last night). Their takes, after the jump.

Loved the shoes. Loathed the show .O.K., I exaggerate. I didn't like the shoes all that much. But the wheel-heeled footwear known as merblades, which allow stage-bound dancers to simulate gliding underwater, provides the only remotely graceful elements in the musical blunderbuss called "Disney's The Little Mermaid"...The whole enterprise is soaked in that sparkly garishness that only a very young child — or possibly a tackiness-worshiping drag queen — might find pretty....Come to think of it, the motto of this production...could be, "You can never go broke underestimating the taste of preschoolers."
— Ben Brantley, New York Times
You won't see water. In fact, you won't even imagine water—which, in a fish story like this one, is an ominous sign...I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention. The big scenic flourishes and bland storytelling never got my imagination firing—never persuaded me to think that the actors scooting around on their Heelys really were mermaids or evil eels or any other freaky aquatic beasts.
— Jeremy McCarter, New York magazine
There are lots of questions to ponder while being otherwise unengaged by Disney's new stage version of "The Little Mermaid." How can a merman and a squid be brother and sister?...If the sea witch is so powerful, how is she so easily dispatched? How does King Triton maintain those abs?...And while we're on that track, did no one at any point worry that the designs for this show are just plain ugly?...In a musical for which children are the primary audience, clarity of representation is fundamental. But...we often require explanation to know what we're looking at...What's surprising is how underwhelming the movie's most delightful numbers are here. The joyous calypso frolic "Under the Sea" and gloriously romantic "Kiss the Girl" are wonderful songs but [director Francesca] Zambello has compromised both with chaotic presentation, not helped by Stephen Mear's uninteresting choreography.
— David Rooney, Variety
Somewhere out there in the choppy foam...the creators...let the compass slip overboard. In director Francesca Zambello's confused production — a morass of mechanical characters, syrupy new songs and gaudily irrelevant set pieces — all the warmth and charm of the film manages to get away. The bloated, 2 1/2 -hour show — an hour longer than the 1989 movie — represents a low watermark for the Disney-on-Broadway franchise...."Mermaid" ends up feeling less like a product meant for Broadway than for another sphere of entertainment: Disney on Ice.
— Peter Marks, Washington Post
[W]ith...breathtaking vulgarity and equally breathtaking confidence...this "Little Mermaid" [has] a certain...almost calculated mediocrity....Underneath all this baroque ornamentation was a tiny, tinny little musical struggling for its life.... There isn't much I can say of the cast - all swimming upstream with a kind of grinning gallantry. Sierra Boggess was sweet enough as the beached Mermaid; Sean Palmer wasn't quite sweet enough as the bleached-out Prince Eric... Sherie Rene Scott, with a Medusa wig and enough tentacles to make an octopus demand a recount, was an appropriately bitchy Witch Ursula, even if she overdid the drag-queen-in-drag bit. And the clowns - Eddie Korbich, Tituss Burgess (as the crab Sebastian), Jonathan Freeman and John Treacy Egan - clowned their hearts away to the audience's content. And, well, I think that's it, as Shakespeare said when he buried the last body in "Hamlet."
— Clive Barnes, New York Post
You try singing and dancing while wearing a tail. More than a little difficult. Yet "The Little Mermaid" — tail intact — amiably swims along on good cheer and charm....his musical, buoyed by one of the best Disney film scores and a delightful new leading lady, succeeds as enjoyable family entertainment. And, yes, the sets are big, but then, so is the ocean.
— Michael Kuchwara Associated Press