March 2 2016 11:48 AM

‘The Little Mermaid’ impresses with strong performances, elaborate costumes

Much of Sunday’s matinee audience was made up of little, young people, leaving very little sitting room in the Lebowsky Center.

Meghan Corbett turns in a strong performance as Ariel in Owosso Community Players' production of "The Little Mermaid."
Photo by Michael David-Lorne Jordan/David-Lorne Photographic

Other than that, there was nothing “little” about the Owosso Community Players’ production of “The Little Mermaid.”

The Disney classic fairy tale, in the hands of director Garrett Bradley, costume designers Mistie Jordon and Lisa Bradley and musical director Alexander Floury (and his flawless 11-piece band), made a small town show worthy of a big city stage.

Any major production of “The Little Mermaid” would have found Owosso Community Players’ dazzling costumes admirable. Terrible Ursula’s tentacled and tantalizingly intimidating dress, the steadfast servant’s superb suit and Ariel’s fancy finned finery were notable mentions on a stage often filled with amazing costumes. No minor character or incidental player wore anything petty, sometimes sporting elaborate outfits used for only one scene.

The sophisticated two-story sets designed by Rob Fett, Dirk Rennick and Dan Wenzlick filled the Lebowsky Center stage. Clever props, such as clear umbrellas decorated like jellyfish, were perfect embellishments for a cartoon come to life. And special effects like bubbles, fog, lighting and “exploding” articles helped make the children’s fantasy more believable and less … fishy, if you’ll pardon the expression.

With such a colorful and astonishing world to perform in, lesser players, more reluctant to come out of their shells, might have still pulled off “The Little Mermaid” without extraordinary skills. But standouts like Meghan Corbett as Ariel, Brennan Hattaway as Sebastian the crab and Angela Bradley as evil Ursula showed remarkable power and charm in their roles, as well as colossal singing. King Triton (Joseph Baumann) and Prince Eric (Max Hayden) added their own majestic vocals. Even minor figures like Chef Louis (Kyle Harwood) and Grimsby (Mike Windnagle) were played with a flair that could withstand any peer — or in this case, pier — pressure. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Choreography by Bradley and Erica Duffield was acrobatic and often complex. Arranging and coordinating such a massive theatrical army is difficult, but the only casualties in “The Little Mermaid,” however, were a rare stumble or dropped prop, which was expertly picked up or smoothly replaced.

With 34 talented cast members, 30 set builders, six prop makers and a dozen costume makers, complete attribution is impossible here. Musical theater fans, especially those with young kids, should head out to see this production for themselves. (And don’t be afraid to let the kids dress up for the occasion, there were several mermaids and princesses in Sunday’s audience.)

Be aware that “The Little Mermaid,” with intermission, runs about two and a half hours. Tickets have been selling out most nights, so you should call ahead or reserve tickets online before making the drive to Owosso. But it’s worth the trip; missing “The Little Mermaid” might result in more than a little bit of regret.

“The Little Mermaid”

Owosso Community Players Through March 13 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday $20/$18 seniors and students/$10 children 13 and under Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso (989) 723-4003,