Review: Thanks to Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed, the costumes for ‘The Little Mermaid’ rule the Good Company seas

By Doug Hoagland

Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed doesn’t sing, doesn’t dance, and doesn’t swim under the sea in Good Company Players’ crowd-pleasing production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Pictured above: Christopher Hoffman, Abigail Nolte, and Adrian Ammsso star in “The Little Mermaid.”  Photo: Edgar Olivera/Good Company Players

But in a production that opened July 13, Lewis-Reed is nonetheless a force – perhaps the force, next to the evil squid Ursula (a wonderful Abigail Nolte).

Lewis-Reed, of course, is GCP’s veteran costume designer who’s sewn together (literally and figuratively) a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, accessories and more to create a visual palette of immense variety and fun. Her creativity ups the ante in the energetic production.

I’m no staff writer for Vogue, but I was so impressed by the costumes in the production that I interviewed Lewis-Reed afterward and received a crash course in fashionista vocabulary. I wanted to be able to describe her work authoritatively.

One example: The red, crushed-velvet A-line tunic of Sebastian the crab, portrayed in the show by the always-entertaining Michael Fidalgo. Adding texture and interest to the costume are 200 mother of pearl shells (used by crafters) that Lewis-Reed glued on one at a time.


She created everything from the ground up (or is that “the sea floor?”) in costuming “The Little Mermaid.” After all, you don’t buy off the rack when you’re dressing a snail (wearing a garment dyed three times to have layers of blue, gold and purple and then hand painted with multicolored polka dots) or jellyfish (wearing hats made from upside-down salad bowls covered with iridescent fabric and ringed with LED lights).

This telling of the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson about a mermaid who dreams of the world above the sea is based on the animated 1989 Disney film. It debuted as a stage musical on Broadway in 2007. (Disney released a live action version of the story in 2023.) GCP has presented “The Little Mermaid” before – in 2016 – and Lewis-Reed was able to reuse costumes from that show. But she also had to produce new ones for the current one.

For example: 13-year-old Minh-Tri Hoang – playing Flounder, the Little Mermaid’s best friend – needed a downsized version of the goldenrod and blue tunic that pops on stage. (The reason: An adult played the role in 2016.) Hoang fits the costume – and more importantly, the role – like it was tailor-made for him. He displays an ease of movement, comic chops, and a naturalness on stage that distinguish his performance among several well-cast supporting actors. Others who stood out to me:

Zachary Kelley, playing Scuttle, a seagull with attitude who fancies himself an expert on human behavior. (Spoiler alert: he’s not.) Wearing sleeves with hundreds of fluttery white rectangles to approximate his wings, Kelley struts, squawks and steals every scene he’s in.

Jeremy Marks, who dons a white toque and pastes on a black mustache to portray Chief Louis, a Frenchman with a sharp cleaver and an eye to turn Sebastian into an entree. Marks goes overboard and takes a willing audience with him.

Speaking of the audience, the performance I attended had a number of children – mostly girls, many dressed as princesses. They provided a soundtrack of laughter and joy that added something to the show. 

Good Company Players

Minh-Tri Hoang, center, plays the character of Flounder in the Good Company Players production of ‘The Little Mermaid.’

Granted, Ariel (a confident Kaitlin Dean in the title role) madly pursuing her square-jawed prince (an earnest Ethan Marsh) might seem a storyline worth retiring in the 21st century. But, if an evening at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater introduces young people to live performance and ignites their interest, it’s OK in my book.

As for the show’s main characters, soprano Dean delivers her songs (notably “The World Above” and “Part of Your World”) with clarity and ease. She also steps into the tension called for in Ariel’s relationship with dear old dad King Triton (a steady Greg Ruud).

Marsh has the harder assignment playing Prince Eric. Disney princes, after all, are seldom expected to do more than look good in uniforms as they ride to the rescue, dance at the ball or kiss the girl. Marsh fits the bill, and notably, brings a rich voice to his portrayal. 

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In superb voice is the aforementioned Nolte, who manages to make Ursula an antagonist with a twinkle in her evil eyes. With delightful precision, she fully commits to the role but holds back just enough to let the audience in on the joke. Playing Ursula is a gas. In Nolte’s capable hands are lines like the one she hurls at Ariel as they make a fateful bargain: “We’re so very much alike, you and I – gals with ambition. Nothing scares a man more, does it?”

Under Dan Pessano’s direction, Ursula commands the stage, and Lewis-Reed’s creativity shines in the squid’s costume. Its main piece is an evening gown made of three layers of different fabrics: chartreuse Spandex with green sequins, plum-colored mesh with iridescent sequins, and a net fabric with designs that resemble scales. The gown is embellished with rhinestones, and over it Ursula wears a skirt with squid legs that hang loose and undulate when she moves. The legs are made out of a cotton Lurex with a metallic appearance and stuffed with Fiberfil. Of Ursula’s costume, Lewis-Reed says: “I think it works really well.”

It certainly does. Her behind-the-scenes work makes a statement in every GCP show. 

Doug Hoagland is a freelance writer in Fresno. He spent 40 years working at Valley papers, including 30 years at The Fresno Bee. The first play he saw was a 1968 production of “Show Boat” at McLane High School.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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