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SPELLS OF THE SEA musical at Metro Theater review

– By Cate Marquis –

In the charming children’s musical “Spells Of The Sea,” a tween girl sets out find a magic elixir in the hope of saving her ailing fisherman father, a quest that involves a old lighthouse keeper, pirates, a mermaid, a sea monster and a magical underwater princess. Despite the whimsy, this imaginative musical has a serious side, with themes of loss, courage and determination, and realistically deals with emotional struggles of a girl moving from child to teen.

“Spells Of The Sea” is an original musical being debuted by the Metro Theater Company, which is celebrating its 50th year of presenting children’s theater, at the Grandel Theater. It was written by Guinevere Govea, with assistance by Anna Pickett, a project started during Covid lock-down. This world premier production is directed by Julia Flood.

Young Finley Frankfurter (Guinevere Govea) is very proud of her father, Ferris Frankfurter (Colin McLaughlin), the incredibly skillful fisherman who saved their little fishing village after the old lighthouse keeper shut down the lighthouse and no one else was able to successfully fish. Kindly Ferris fed the whole village, about while Finley loves her father and is very proud of him, she worries that she will never measure up as a fisher-person, despite her father’s loving encouragement. When dad Ferris falls seriously ill from “the big bad sickness” and when Finley is told her has only one more day to live, frantic Finley sets out on a sea quest to gather the magical potions and spells she needs if she hopes to save him.

First, she needs the magical map held by the reclusive old lighthouse keeper, H.S. Crank (Jon Gentry). She discovers the old man is not mean but mourning the loss of his daughter Pearl (Hannah Geisz). The two end up going on the quest together.

Molly Burris as the Princess, in “Spells of the Sea.” Photo credit: Jennifer A. Link. Courtesy of Metro Theater Company.

The story is narrated by Tyler White, who plays a mermaid, a shopkeeper and later a sea monster, all with great charm and a splendid singing voice. On the journey, they encounter a pirate captain (Noah Laster) and his crew, storms, that sea monster and a magical undersea princess (Molly Burris). Mitchell Manar plays the pirate captain’s assistant, while Syrhee Conaway plays the village’s teacher, rounding out the cast.

Despite the fantasy story and the many moments of whimsy, there are serious emotions in this musical that are honestly and realistically presented, meaning that some of the story may be too intense for very young audiences. The themes of loss and illness, of seeking cures and even uncertainty about one’s abilities all fit for a play crafted during the pandemic.

Guinevere Govea perfectly portrays the mix of earnestness, energy and self-doubt of a tween girl, with a winning bounciness. The most touching performance, and the most striking, is Jon Gentry as the grieving lighthouse keeper, who displays a warmth under his crusty exterior and who is drawn out of his solitude by Finley. Colin McLaughlin is warm, encouraging and supportive as Finley’s dad Ferris. Funny Molly Burris does a goofy ’80s teen as the princess and Noah Laster is an entertaining pirate. One of the most memorable turns is Tyler White as the mermaid narrator, and she also serves as the show’s choreographer.

All the actors are called on the sing, dance and play musical instruments on stage. The costumes are imaginative and colorful, and the sets are magical. There are a pair of impressive set constructions, a boat the actors “steer” across the stage, and a big lighthouse, which turns to reveal shelves and steps. The combination of clever scenic design by Margery and Peter Spack, lighting design by Jayson m. Lawshee and sound design by Rusty Wandall come together to create wonderful special effects and create just the right sense of magic for the story.

This is a delightful show with a meaningful message than adults as well as children can enjoy, filled with tuneful music and fine performances. Metro Theater Company has done its self proud with this half-century mark production.

Metro Theater Company’s “Spells Of The Sea” is on stage at the Grandel Theater through March 5.

© Cate Marquis

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars