The Little Mermaid Jr

Blue Butterfly Studios The Rose Theatre, Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, Eastleigh Anne Waggott

1 June 2024

Second show review of the day… Second Disney production… Second Alan Menken musical of the day… First time seeing Blue Butterfly Studios in action – and I hope it’s not the last!

From the larger expansive stage of The Point earlier today to the more compact performance space of The Rose Theatre at Barton Peveril this evening, the two venues couldn’t have been more different, added to which this was also an entirely youth-based performance, with all the performers aged from 7 to 17 years old.

What is shared almost universally across all Disney musicals, however, professional or amateur, adult or youth performers, is the sheer joie de vivre of delightful escapism – and this was no exception!

Blue Butterfly Studios is based in Eastleigh Town Centre (at the Swan Centre), providing fun dance and musical theatre classes to children of all ages, this year culminating in their youth production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at The Rose Theatre. If ‘fun’ is what the creative team want to offer the children, then ‘FUN!’ is what the children gave back in this delightful and charming production! With the broadest smiles beaming from their faces, it was clear that this was exactly where they all wanted to be – and they took the audience along with them for the ride!

With such a wide age range, it’s inevitable that some were more polished performers than others, but it was also obvious through the age groups that this is an excellent company to learn, hone and master the three major performance skills of acting, singing and dancing, with dancing arguably their collective strongest discipline on this occasion.

Isobel Dines was totally enchanting as the eponymous Ariel, with a costume and wig that made her look as though she had stepped straight off the animated screen. She had a crystal clear singing voice, with the most expressive face and beautifully executed dance moves, mesmerising whenever she appeared on stage.

Rosie Fern threatened to steal the show, as well as Ariel’s voice, as she brought the evil sea witch, Ursula, to life. Her stage presence, comedic acting and singing showed a maturity beyond her years, and it was easy to believe how slippery eels Flotsam (Evie Rudd) and Jetsam (Lily Ballinger) would fall under her command.

Poppy Haylett was brilliant as Flounder, (definitely not just a guppy but a radiant fish!), Ariel’s loyal, brave and smart best friend, performing with flair, poise and charm.

Ariel’s Mersisters (Eva Fern, Maddie Gray, Lacey Porter, Sophie Thomas, Florence Talbot and Millie Newman) were all excellent and graceful dancers, with each one providing distinct and sassy characters as Ariel’s siblings.

As with many youth dance-based groups, the cast was predominantly girls (it would be fabulous for more boys to get involved – come on, boys, you don’t know what you’re missing!), but Logan Marshall clearly had a ball as Sebastian, Ariel’s crustacean friend and would-be protector. Developing a lovely comical character, Logan already possesses charisma and stage presence, showing an aptitude for musical theatre comedy with his timing and performance, with a good young singing voice to boot.

Under Amy Fern’s expert direction, this was a beautifully charming and endearing ensemble production, with lovely characters developing amongst the chorus as well as the principal lineup, even including some puppetry skills (loved the frogs, tentacles and eels!). The outstanding creative team headed by Creative Director, James Henderson, provided so much attention to detail in the stunning array of costumes, hair and makeup, props and scenery. In the programme notes, Henderson writes, “It’s always my intention when designing shows for a young cast that they receive the same amount of energy as would be put into a production with professional actors.” Well, Blue Butterfly Studios may not have the budget of a West End professional show, but the culmination of 5 months tireless work by his team making everything from scratch, with the support of parents and students, certainly fulfilled his intention!

Blue Butterfly Studios have provided a magnificent training ground for Eastleigh’s budding youth performers – and I can’t wait to see where this may lead them next!