Des Moines Playhouse takes the plunge12/6/2017
“Disney’s The Little Mermaid”
Take a big breath as the Des Moines Playhouse prepares you for a deep dive into Ariel’s world with the “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” This year’s holiday show began its run on Dec. 1 and runs through Dec. 23. Based on the beloved tale by Hans Christian Andersen, this story captures a special connectivity when filled with popular songs (thanks, Disney, for the iconic animated film) and watching this oceanic entourage come to vibrant life onstage.
With a heralded mix of talent and experience, Director Maxwell Schaeffer explains, “We’re now into a second generation of fans of the movie. We have to capture those trusted characterizations and elicit a powerful connection to the movie, but keep the story fresh — with added surprises.”
Considering the number of Cloris Awards won by various members on this production team, the surprises will be a-plenty, the production value top-notch, and the mission of gifting the community with a holiday treat worthy of their cultural consumption will be achieved.
“What I really truly appreciate about the Playhouse is that they honor the tradition by presenting something for family but are not limited to holiday tales,” explains David R. Kilpatrick, executive director. “Rather, the Playhouse tells inclusive stories for all families.”
“The concept has worked great. People look forward to it and treat it as a special occasion,” Artistic Director John Viars adds, then continues, with a twinkle in his eyes, “and we have some fantastic shows lined up and ready to go for the future.”
For now, however, we prepare to follow Ariel’s rebelliousness into an adventure that includes sea creatures, princes, sailors, and, of course, a classic Disney villainess, Ursula. The challenge in a landlocked environ such as the Playhouse is creating the look, feel and vibrancy of a brilliant marine color palette that audiences expect. Enter multiple Cloris Award-winning costume designer, Angela Lampe.
“It’s more fun and expressive to get the feel of a fish rather than try to recreate one,” Lampe explains. “I looked for fabrics that made me think of sea life, chiffons that flow like water, the texture of a crab shell, sequins that shimmer like fish scales and the light hitting water.”
With perhaps more freedom than the usual design work requires, Lampe’s imagination, coupled with an unequalled ability to find perfect materials for the task, should create a crowd-pleasing flow of colorful costuming for young and old alike.
“I am interested in referencing the images from the original movie but prefer to bring my own vision to this story,” Lampe says. “I allow myself to be abstract rather than realistic when it comes to creating the sea creature costumes.”
Schaeffer sums up the thousands of hours of volunteer preparation for “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” by sharing, “Our design team will deliver a unique-yet-familiar presentation of Ariel’s story, filled with colorful settings and costumes, clever choreography, and an amazing depth of performance. Disney has this patented way of bringing living, human qualities to cartoon characters. Our Playhouse production of the live-action stage musical is able to truly bring these two-dimensional cartoon characters to three-dimensional life.”
For everyone who delighted in this tale when Disney first gave it global appeal in 1989, fast forward that initial love to the refreshing magic of live theatre. Sure to make a big splash through this beloved bevy of aquatic characters, this is a holiday treat to be shared by the entire family.
Overheard in the lobby
Pop-up theatre beckons, when the Open Door Rep presents its second-ever production, the thought-provoking “dEAD dOG pARK,” beginning Dec. 1. Iowa Stage Theatre Company features Cloris Award-winning actor Richard Maynard in a special adaptation of the beloved and inspirational tale, “A Christmas Carol,” beginning Dec. 14. An open-ended run of “Utopia, The Iowa Musical Revue — Version 5.0” will be presented at the Mainframe Studio Theater, located inside the new Mainframe Studios in downtown Des Moines, beginning in January of 2018. Created by Iowa playwright Robert John Ford, this new production will be directed and choreographed by Cloris Award-winner Alison Shafer, with music direction by Dani Boal. Tickets for January performances are currently on sale through midwestix.com. ♦
John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.