The Little Mermaid on the Big Stage

By Angus McNellie 

March 18, 2024
Photo credit: Erin Clausen

On Friday, March 8th, San Luis Obispo High School’s theater department presented The Little Mermaid, a classic Disney story of love at first sight, and Jamaican crustaceans. I had the wonderful opportunity of viewing one of their matinee performances, and it was a show to remember. In just the first few scenes, it became obvious to me just how hard the program had worked to put this show together. The actors presented their characters with poise and charm, all while decorated head to toe in dazzling accessories and hairstyles. The set was jaw-dropping, and the props were nothing to dismiss either. Overall, this performance was truly spectacular.

It’s impossible to write a review of this show without praising the set. The backdrops breathed life into the stage, depicting a variety of iconic settings such as Ariel’s treasure trove, Ursula’s lair, and Prince Eric’s castle. All of these locations appeared distinctly different, despite all being on the same stage. One of the most iconic set pieces has to be Ariel’s shelf of trinkets, which took the appearance of a large shell bedazzled with human possessions. Another standout was the ship set, complete with a sail. It’s incredible how quickly these massive decorations made it onto stage so quickly and effortlessly.

Of course, the set wasn’t the only beautiful thing in this show. The hair, makeup, and costumes of the actors was beyond charming. Each member of the cast had a unique look, making their character easily recognizable. From Sebastian’s sparkling fedora, to Flotsam and Jetsam’s neon mohawks, each design held its own special flair. Ursula’s tentacle dress was especially impressive, it followed her motions with a sinister aura and a slimy presence. The wigs completed a number of the looks; it wouldn’t be The Little Mermaid without Ariel’s iconic cherry red hair.

Of course, the actors were extraordinary as well. As much as I wish I could shout out each individual performer, this cast was gargantuan. However, that won’t stop me from giving praise where it’s due. Sadie Badger’s portrayal of Ariel was picture perfect, her delusional teenage mermaid attitude and clear-as-water pitch brought the princess to life. Her chemistry with Prince Eric felt nearly too real, a clear example of their talent. Jamie Collins’ depiction of Sebastian was impeccable. I’ve never seen a human so accurately portray a lobster, all while wearing a fedora. Collins’ stage presence was powerful and glamorous, a true show-stopper. Finally, Frida Vega’s performance as the infamous sea witch Ursula was one for the books. Her evil diva demeanor, villainous (yet beautiful) singing, and brief era where she was 20 feet tall made her a personal favorite of mine and many others. 

Overall, this show was phenomenal and surpassed the standards of high school theater. The whole production team had a clear understanding of the material and delivered the show with confidence and suave. This performance has only made me more excited for future shows to come from this outstanding program.