By Lori Kimbel
Without a doubt the Elgin Opera House is the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays throughout September as the Little Mermaid graces the stage. Opening night jitters seemed to be non-existent as these well versed actors and actresses took to the stage time and again after each and every set change. It was completely obvious that the audience enjoyed the show, with the laughter, gasps and cheers that came from both the main floor and the balcony throughout the performance. During intermission the play-goers could be heard exclaiming how amazing the quality of the show was.
Madeline Hale, an Opera House favorite for nine years, does a phenomenal job in her first lead role. She was completely believable as Ariel and her acting and dancing were spot on. Madeline is a high school sophomore and has dedicated much of her spare time to perfecting her acting skills. One of my favorite moments of the play was when she was trying to explain why she could not talk to Prince Eric. All the hours of practice she has spent on the Elgin Opera House stage comes through loud and clear, with or without a voice.
Of course every princess needs a villian, Ursula was all that and more. Her tangly tentacles and evil ways caught Ariel up in an instant. Meegan Anderson, the woman behind the villainous creature was absolutely amazing. She filled the Opera House with each and every note of her strong, well-tuned voice. The Little Mermaid is her first play at the Elgin Opera House, but hopefully it will not be her last. She was simply amazing and it was obvious she is a seasoned actress.
Sebastian, played by Brian Monger, was the surprise of the night. Who would have thought a Reggae-singing Jamaican crab could have so much personality and add so much to the show. Monger, a native Oregonian, was raised in a musical family and seems to be a perfect fit for the Elgin Opera House.
Quentin Durfee played Prince Eric. His love for Ariel was obvious, even before he realized she was the one he was searching for. The Little Mermaid is Durfee’s fifth musical production, yet it still amazed me how comfortable and flawless he was in front of the live audience.
Flounder was absolutely adorable as he skated across the stage in almost every scene. Brady Morgan was the young man inside the bright colored costume and really did a fabulous job. I’ve noticed he tends to stand out in every show he is a part of. I first saw him in Christmas at the Opera House and then again in Ring of Fire and let me tell you the boy plays a pretty mean fiddle. Brady is going to continue to stand out at the Elgin Opera House as he will take the lead in “A Christmas Story” this coming December. There is no doubt in my mind he will do a great job.
King Triton, played by Russell Buckley, definitely came across as the King of the Sea. His commanding voice put everyone on edge as the search for his missing daughter carried on into the night, and if he wasn’t known to be such a nice guy, he would have definitely put the fear into many in the audience. Buckley is no stranger to the Elgin Opera House stage as he has performed in eight shows over the last several years.
Then there was Scuttle….wow! Not really wow, that was amazing, or wow, he stole the show, but wow has there ever been a sea gull that loud, that high-spirited, that flamboyant, that talented, that absolutely entertaining kind of wow. Alan Stogin claimed his seagullness and had the audience enjoying every minute that he was on stage.
The always entertaining Chad Rasmussen played the rambunctious Chef Louis. He has performed at the Elgin Opera House in a variety of shows and it is always fun to watch as he brings his characters to life on the stage.
Samuel Shown plays Grimsby and even though this was not the biggest part in the play, Shown really did a great job with it. This was his first time performing at the Elgin Opera House, but I really hope to see him come again. I think there is a lot of untapped potential here and I am looking forward to seeing his next performance.
The next two that I am going to mention did not have leading roles, but I thought they played their parts wonderfully, and were actually two more of my favorites of the night. The electric eels, Flotsam and Jetsam were played by Abby Hale and Jeremiah Dockweiler and they did such a great job as Ursula’s sidekicks. In addition to their evil acting they also wore amazing costumes.
The mersisters, played by Aubrey Slaughter, Emily Carman, Naomi Medley, Sonja Adams, Ashlee Zaugg, and Tess Cahill entertained the crowd with their singing and dancing as well as with their jealousy of Ariel.
This show just kept getting better and better as the night continued. The tap dancing sea gulls were amazing with their tap routines that were absolutely flawless, and the more than two dozen little sea gulls were adorable.
The one thing I can always count on with a Terry Hale production is that there will be something that blows away the plays that came before. With Beauty and the Beast it was the Beast that was slowly lowered down to the stage floor, with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it was the car that had everyone talking. With the Little Mermaid it will be the musical number Under the Sea. The stage absolutely came alive with the most colorful sea creatures and flowers you can imagine.
There is so much that goes into an Elgin Opera House performance each and every time. From the sets, to the paintings, to the costumes, to the welcoming committee, the lighting, the choreography and the ticket sales, it is obvious the people involved in the Elgin Opera House love what they are doing and lucky for us they just keep on doing it.