Theater & Dance
"Disney's 'The Little Mermaid'"

By: Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & Glenn Slater, book by Dough Wright, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney film
Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Directed and choreographed by: Janie Scott
Music direction by: Lauren F. Bevilacqua
Featuring: Cheyenne Wells, Joey McDaniel, Corey Miller, Vic Prosak, Drew Hope, Kevin Redrico, Nick Mandracchia, Daniel Lloyd Pias, Jepoy Ramos, Joshua C. Lau, Kristen Hermosillo, Sarah Bylsma, Michael Cai, Christopher Crosby Cruz, Lillian Garcia-Kautz, Jennifer Gorgulho, Dario Johnson, Zendrex Llado, Katie Mazon, Jason Mooney, Smita Patibanda, Danielle Williams
Running time: 135 minutes, one intermission
When: September 16 through October 2, 2016
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre,
Tickets: $25-$55 (discounts available). Visit or call 650-329-0891.

Hermosillo, Wells
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Kristen Hermosillo as Ursula, left, and Cheyenne Wells as Ariel in "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid,'" playing September 16 through October 2, 2016, at Palo Alto Players.
A delightful Ariel shines
in 'The Little Mermaid'
Cheyenne Wells is charming, talented
and hilarious as this Disney princess
September 18, 2016

Palo Alto Players and the great director/choreographer Janie Scott have made a wonderful discovery in Cheyenne Wells, the young woman who is absolutely delightful as Ariel, the title character of "The Little Mermaid."

Wells greets the audience from the orchestra pit — where she is "swimming" — with a huge smile that could be used as a spotlight anywhere.

And yes, she is pretty, she sings very well and can dance gracefully when called upon to do so.

What makes her special is her gift for comedy, especially physical comedy.

You know the story, right? A mermaid who likes to come to the surface to view the world around her, falls in love with a prince on a ship, and cuts a very bad deal with the evil Ursula to get legs. She has to give up her voice to do it, which is bad, because it is her voice that caught the prince's attention.

When she first gets to the surface, as a human, Wells as Ariel is hilarious with her legs, which are as limp as overcooked spaghetti, and gets plenty of help in hilarity from Kevin Redrico as Ariel's seagull friend Scuttle, and from the enormously talented and charming Daniel Lloyd Pias as Sebastian the crab.

And when the talented Corey Miller, as the handsome Prince Eric, takes her dancing, Wells is even funnier, alternating between adoring looks at the prince and terrified looks for the audience's benefit. Very funny.

Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Cheyenne Wells as Ariel, front, and Kevin Redrico as Scuttle in "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid,'" as Ariel first uses her human legs.

It's a fun show, and the audience on opening night was wildly enthusiastic with its applause, except, perhaps, for some of the younger children who were still a little freaked out by the 12-foot-tall Ursula and her big, floppy tentacles, or maybe by those scary eyes in the darkness of Ursula's grotto.

Not to mention the little girls who were dragged into the men's room by their daddies because the lines were too long at the women's rooms. I pitied the tot who was in there at intermission when I was; she needed the one stall with a sit-down toilet and a door, and a fella who was in line ahead of me was also in desperate need, apparently, and didn't look willing to give up his place in line just because the little cutie was obviously terrified.

(Really, the Lucie Stern Theatre and its complex needs more toilets, and more parking. Go ahead, hold your breath till the City of Palo Alto addresses either of those issues. When you turn blue, text me, I'll want to get a photo.)

Overall, this is a great show for children, especially, and for anybody else who just likes to have a good time. Lots of cute stuff, like Ariel and her best friend, Flounder (played with considerable empathy and physical gifts by Drew Hope), gliding back and forth in the orchestra pit, because they are "swimming."

Once up on stage, several performers, including Hope and Jepoy Ramos as Flotsam and Joshua C. Lau as Jetsam, glide around on Heelys, those clever shoes with skate wheels built into the heels.

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And, there is flying!

When the stage floor is on the ground, not undersea, Redrico as Scuttle the seagull flies in on wires and makes a completely hilarious landing on a big rock.

When the stage is the sea floor, lots more fish, including Ariel the mermaid, fly through the depths.

It's fun.

The great Joey McDaniel is in this show, and is absolutely wonderful as Chef Louis, singing about "Les Poissons" while gutting and boning fish, and then trying to capture Pias as Sebastian the crab, to serve him to the prince.

McDaniel's voice is remarkable. His high tenor was in beautiful form, and he is very, very funny.

For me, the best ear worm in this show is "Under the Sea," delivered by Sebastian and sea creatures. "Darling, it's better, down where it's wetter." This was also the most fun for props, with lots of colorful fish floating and flying around, including fabulous huge jelly fish. The cast, singing, carried these up the aisles, which made for even more fun.

Joey McDaniel
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Joey McDaniel as Chef Louis sings about "Les Poissons" in "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid.'"

Pias is delightful through the entire show as Sebastian.

Some of Patrick Klein's scenic design was fun and clever, such as the stage curtain that is pulled up like a giant sail by sailors, and the giant spiral shell that is Ariel's room. I was surprised by the dull colors of many of the backdrops, though. My thinking being, this is based on a Disney animated feature. Where are the bright colors and the vibrancy? But, ohmygod, you guys, I was tickled when I noticed that the reef backdrop for King Triton's grotto spelled out the letters OMG.

Some of the projected backdrops reminded of "SpongeBob Squarepants."

A good orchestra, conducted by Lauren F. Bevilacqua, was stashed backstage, since the orchestra pit was in use. I question the playing of the overture and the entr'acte, largely because little kids in the audience are likely to be bored into a snooze by them, especially when the dull "Little Mermaid" curtain is still down, before the show.

Sound design, by Grant Huberty, was excellent, which is not always the case in this old auditorium. Edward Hunter's lighting design helped with the undersea idea. Ashley Grambow's costume designs ranged from very beautiful (everything worn by Wells) to hilarious (such as Redrico's seagull costume).

Excellent singing, dancing ensemble. Scott's choreography is wonderful to watch.

Fun show.

Email John Orr at

Miller, Wells
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Corey Miller as Prince Eric, left, and Cheyenne Wells as Ariel in "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid,'" playing September 16 through October 2, 2016, at Palo Alto Players.
Pias, Wells
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Daniel Lloyd Pias as Sebastian, left, and Cheyenne Wells as Ariel in "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid,'" playing September 16 through October 2, 2016, at Palo Alto Players.