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SLO Rep's The Little Mermaid Jr. makes a splash 

In what feels like the year of seemingly endless live-action Disney remakes, one might think the threshold for consuming stories about princess culture would have been met. But one would be wrong, especially when it comes to the San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre's production of The Little Mermaid Jr. musical, featuring the child performers of the Academy of Creative Theatre (ACT).

click to enlarge PART OF THAT WORLD Ariel (Maggie Zuniga) longs to leave the ocean behind and walk among humans, but at what cost? - PHOTOS COURTESY OF RYLO MEDIA DESIGN
  • Photos Courtesy Of Rylo Media Design
  • PART OF THAT WORLD Ariel (Maggie Zuniga) longs to leave the ocean behind and walk among humans, but at what cost?

We all know the story: A young mermaid with a fascination for human culture falls in love with a dashing prince and makes the not-so-great decision to exchange her voice for legs, knowing she only has a three-day window to kiss the prince and thus be able to stay human and happy forever.

Sure, it's morally dubious, but at least the Disney version has a leg up on the Hans Christian Andersen original, in which Ariel turns into sea foam at the end instead of living happily ever after.

The 2007 Broadway musical version goes a bit further before reaching the Disney ending, with a few fun numbers the film version doesn't have, such as "She's in Love," in addition to fun classics like "Part of Your World" and "Under The Sea."

"That's all well and good, Ryah," you might say, "but why would I go to a kiddie show when I don't have a child or know anyone in the show?"

These are talented youngsters in the ACT program—some get their start as young as 5 years old—who use their hands-on, onstage experience through SLO Rep's camps, classes, and workshops to bring this script to life.

The lovely ladies playing Ariel (Maggie Zuniga, Into The Woods), Flounder (Charley Beck, A Little Princess), and Ursula (Eliana Nunley, Pride and Prejudice) can sing like nobody's business.

Nolan LeMay as the flamboyant and ever-worried yet loyal Sebastian provides a well-earned laughs, even amid the show's more dramatic moments. And Isaac Garcia as the chef who tries to cook said crustacean is charmingly hilarious.

And like the live-action movie remake of The Little Mermaid—which, yes, is in the works—SLO Rep's rendition and casting of Zuniga (who happens to be the daughter of one of New Times' owners and is oh so talented in her own right) chooses to ignore the classic cartoon version's of the leading lady—white skin, red hair—despite internet trolls sniveling that said skin and hair colors matter to the story. (They most definitely do not matter!)

click to enlarge SEA WITCH! Ursula (Eliana Nunley, center) hatches an evil plan to get King Triton's kingdom and steal Ariel's voice. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF RYLO MEDIA DESIGN
  • Photos Courtesy Of Rylo Media Design
  • SEA WITCH! Ursula (Eliana Nunley, center) hatches an evil plan to get King Triton's kingdom and steal Ariel's voice.

As if you still need a reason to see these young, local actors dance, sing, and strut with gusto, let me just say that the show moves at a nice clip (it's a little longer than an hour with no intermission), so the bar is still open afterward—because parents need a drink too.

Tickets are selling out, but never fear! If you need an extra dash of Disney in your life, add your name to a waitlist at slorep.org. Δ

Arts Writer Ryah Cooley would never give up her mermaid powers. Contact her at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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