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The Little Mermaid (Musical)

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The Little Mermaid (Musical)

The Little Mermaid
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
Music Alan Menken
Lyrics Glenn Slater
Howard Ashman
Book Doug Wright
Basis The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen & Disney's 1989 animated film of the same name
Productions 2008 Broadway
International and regional productions

The Little Mermaid is a stage musical produced by Disney Theatrical, based on the animated 1989 Disney film of the same name and the classic story of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen about a mermaid who dreams of the world above the sea and gives up her beautiful voice to find love. The musical's book is by Doug Wright, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman (written for the film), with additional lyrics by Glenn Slater. The musical's underwater setting and story about aquatic characters requires unusual technical designs and strategies to create gliding movements for the actors.

After a pre-Broadway tryout in Denver, Colorado from July to September 2007, the musical began Broadway previews in November 2007 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, replacing Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The production officially opened on January 10, 2008 and closed on August 30, 2009 after 685 performances and 50 previews. It introduced Broadway debuts by director Francesca Zambello and Sierra Boggess in the title role.

Subsequent productions have been seen in US regional theatres and in international productions, with a modified European version playing in several countries.

Development

"It [then] becomes about how does she live underwater, and how do you make that world? It's about the truthfulness to the story and that, in essence, gave me the idea to create something that was really a jewel-box – something that was very simple and in terms of the set, very translucent, takes light beautifully and [is] architectural and sculptural to suggest an underwater world without actually being in real water or having people swimming.'"[1]
— Francesca Zambello, director

Disney Theatrical had success with stage adaptations of its animated musical films Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and The Lion King in 1997. Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical, proposed another adaptation, this time of the 1989 film The Little Mermaid, approaching songwriter Alan Menken, who had composed the music for the film, to be part of the production team.[1] Schumacher initially brought on director/choreographer Matthew Bourne to helm the musical, but Bourne left when their visions on the project differed.[2] Schumacher then approached Francesca Zambello, telling her that "We haven't found a way to do the water". Zambello's experience with the fantasy elements of opera made her open to the project, and the decision was made that there would be no water, wires or flying in the production.[2] Playright Doug Wright was brought on as book writer, focusing the story line on Ariel's longing not for her prince, but for "a world in which she feels truly realized in her own terms. ... Her ambitions are bigger than any one man."[2] For the songs, Menken brought on lyricist Glenn Slater, whom he'd worked with on Home on the Range, and together they wrote ten new songs for the stage musical, adding '60s rock, vaudeville and 1920s Brechtian cabaret to the sound of the show.[2]

In creating the underwater world on stage, director Zambello asked her design team to use translucent materials to create abstract shapes and manipulate light to give the watery illusion.[3] The design team consisted of George Tsypin for sets, Natasha Katz for lighting and Tatiana Noginova for costumes, all three of whom had previously worked with Zambello.[2] For the performers' movements, choreographer Stephen Mear had the actors wear Heelys wheeled footwear, dubbed "merblades", while tails on sprung-steel rods, designed by Michael Curry, were attached to their hips.[4] Sierra Boggess, who originated the role of Ariel, was an ice-skater and had no trouble with the Heelys, but the rest of the cast took some getting used to the footwear.[2] Ariel's tail originally had a motor inside that allowed the fluke to move independently, but the mechanics made the tail heavy and loud and were removed.[2]

Rehearsals for the Broadway production began on May 29, 2007 at the New 42nd Street Studios in New York. The cast had six weeks of rehearsals before the pre-Broadway tryout.[2]

Productions

Original production

Tryout

The show had a pre-Broadway tryout at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Ellie Caulkins Opera House from July 26, 2007 through September 9, 2007. Every seat available (approximately 95,000 seats) for the 6-week run was sold out.[5]

Broadway

The musical began previews on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 3, 2007 and was temporarily shut down on November 10, 2007 due to the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike.[6] The strike ended on November 28, 2007, and the show resumed previews the next day.[7] The official opening date was postponed from December 6, 2007 to January 10, 2008.[8] Jodi Benson and Pat Carroll, who starred in the 1989 animated film as Ariel and Ursula, respectively, attended the opening night ceremony.[9]

Direction was by Francesca Zambello, making her Broadway debut, with choreography by Stephen Mear. Scenic design was by George Tsypin, costumes by Tatiana Noginova and lighting by Natasha Katz. The original cast featured newcomer Sierra Boggess in the title role of Ariel, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, Brian D'Addario and Trevor Braun alternated as Flounder, Norm Lewis as King Triton, Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, Tyler Maynard as Flotsam, Derrick Baskin as Jetsam, Jonathan Freeman as Grimsby, and John Treacy Egan as Chef Louis. Notable replacements included Faith Prince as Ursula and Drew Seeley as Prince Eric. The production closed on August 30, 2009, after 50 previews and 685 performances.[10] Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions said, "it would be fiscally irresponsible to our shareholders to risk operating losses with such a big show in the historically challenging fall months. We are closing the Broadway production to concentrate on the long future life of this title."[11]

Postponed US Tour

The first national US tour of the musical had been scheduled to start in the fall of 2010,[12] but the tour has not started as of 2013. In March 2012, lyricist Glenn Slater said that he hoped a US tour would happen after an upcoming European tour.[13]

Regional US productions

Regional US productions have included the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins, Utah (2011);[14] The Muny, St. Louis, Missouri (2011);[15] and the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey (2013)[16][17]

International productions

International productions have included the following:

Philippines (2011)

Philippine-based Atlantis Productions secured the rights to the musical and it opened on November 18, 2011 and closed on December 11, 2011. Pop stars Rachelle Ann Go and Erik Santos appear as Ariel and Prince Eric, respectively. This is the first production that incorporates Asian elements into its costume design by Eric Pineda, whose designs had to be approved by Disney Theatrical Co.[18] A majority of the cast members plays as puppeteer-actors, who control wayang or shadow puppets , bunraku or traditional Japanese puppets and nang kaloung or Cambodian puppets, during certain parts of the show.[19]

The Netherlands (2012)

The Dutch version, produced by Stage Entertainment, is a revised version.[20] For this version new songs (like "Daddy's Little Girl" and "If Only") were written, and some of the songs were omitted ("Sweet Child" Reprise, "I Want The Good Times Back"). Bob Crowley designed the set, which is completely different from the American version, using aerial effects and flying harnasses to create the concept of swimming instead of using heeleys. The world above water is made to look like a pop-up book, using cardboard waves and rocks. The production is directed by Glenn Casale.[21] The Dutch cast album reached No. 3 in 2012 on the Dutch Album Top 100 chart.[22]

Russia (2012)

The Russian production opened on July 5, 2012 at the Rossia Theatre in Moscow using the Dutch production design, with direction by Glenn Casale. The show is produced by Stage Entertainment Russia.[23]

Japan (2013)

A Japanese production opened on April 7, 2013 at the Shiki Theatre Natsu, Tokyo using the production designs and directions used in the Dutch production by Bob Crowley and Glenn Casale, respectively.[24]

Planned Buenos Aires production

T4F, the largest company responsible for bringing Broadway musicals to South America has partnered with Disney and is expected to premiere The Little Mermaid in 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.[25]

Junior version

A junior version of the musical for performances by middle and high school students shortens the script, omits several songs and shortens others. Extra roles for sea and lagoon creatures may be added to suit larger casts.[26]

Synopsis

Act I

Prince Eric, his adviser Grimsby, and sailors are aboard a ship at sea, discussing the "mythical" merfolk that supposedly live under the sea. Grimsby wants Eric to return to court to fulfill his birthright as king. However, Eric hears a beautiful voice and commands it to be followed ("Fathoms Below").

Deep on the ocean floor in the merfolk kingdom, a concert in honor of a thwarted coup d'état by Ursula is underway, being performed by the daughters of Triton the sea king. King Triton's court composer, Sebastian the crab, has composed a song for girls to perform ("Daughters of Triton"). However, the youngest daughter, Ariel, is not there for her solo, bringing the concert to a halt. Ariel has forgotten about the concert and is swimming around the surface, admiring a new item for her collection, a fork. She reveals that she is fascinated with the human world ("The World Above"). Together with her best friend Flounder, Ariel visits Scuttle and his fellow seagulls to ask about the human things she's collected, and he explains them somewhat erroneously ("Human Stuff").

Elsewhere, the sea witch Ursula is planning revenge against her brother, King Triton. She was banished from the palace for using black magic, and tells her minions Flotsam and Jetsam to keep an eye on Ariel, whom she thinks will be the key to getting the crown and trident ("I Want the Good Times Back").

When Ariel returns home, she is berated by King Triton, who is angered to learn that she has been on the surface, since contact between the merfolk and human world is forbidden. Ariel rushes off upset, and King Triton assigns Sebastian to watch over Ariel to make sure she doesn't get into trouble. Ariel sits alone in her grotto, which contains her collection of human things, and imagines living in the human world ("Part of Your World"). Ariel and Flounder meet Scuttle at the surface to see Prince Eric's ship up close. On board, Grimsby tells Eric that he must find a bride and take his place as king. A storm suddenly hits, and Eric is tossed overboard. Ariel saves him from drowning and drags him to shore. She realizes that she is falling in love with him, and vows to find a way to be with him ("Part of Your World (Reprise)").

After Ariel returns home, her behavior makes her sisters and Flounder suspect that she has fallen in love ("She's in Love"). On land, Eric is determined to the find the woman who saved his life, but the only clue he has is "Her Voice". Sebastian reveals to King Triton that Ariel has saved a human. Triton angrily confronts her about it ("The World Above (Reprise)") and uses his trident to destroy Ariel's human collection. After the king leaves, Sebastian tries to comfort Ariel by pointing out the wonders of the undersea world ("Under the Sea"), but she is furious with him for reporting to her father and sneaks off with Flounder during the song. Once she's away, she's stopped by Flotsam and Jetsam, who sweet talk her into seeking help from Ursula ("Sweet Child").

Ariel goes to meet Ursula, who presents a deal: Ariel will be turned into a human for three days, during which she has to win the kiss of true love from Eric. If she does, she will be human permanently; if not, her soul will belong to Ursula. In exchange, Ariel must give up her voice, which will stay in Ursula's magic Nautilus shell ("Poor Unfortunate Souls"). Ariel signs the agreement and sings into the shell, after which she is transformed into a human and swims up to the surface.

Act II

Sebastian and Flounder bring Ariel, newly human, to shore. Scuttle and the seagulls give her a pep talk to raise her spirits and help her get used to her new legs ("Positoovity"). Eric arrives, but when Ariel tries to talk to him, she cannot speak. Eric brings Ariel back to his palace, where Carlotta, the head mistress, and the maids bathe and dress Ariel. Ariel is fascinated by the human world, while the maids wonder why Eric has brought such a girl to the palace ("Beyond My Wildest Dreams"). That night Chef Louis cooks dinner for Ariel, Grimsby, and Eric, and almost cooks Sebastian for the grand finale ("Les Poissons"/"Les Poissons (Reprise)").

Eric and Ariel spend time together, during which Eric teaches her to dance ("One Step Closer"). Meanwhile, Ursula is anxiously waiting for the three days to end and sends Flotsam and Jetsam to hurry things along ("I Want The Good Times Back" (Reprise)). After a tour of the kingdom, Eric takes Ariel on a quiet boat ride through a lagoon. Sebastian and Scuttle watch anxiously and try to create a romantic atmosphere for Eric to kiss Ariel ("Kiss the Girl"). Just before they kiss, Flotsam and Jetsam give the boat an "electric shock" and swim away gloating ("Sweet Child" (Reprise)). As the second day ends, Ariel wishes she had more time and could tell Eric everything, Triton worries about where his daughter has gone, Sebastian is concerned that Ariel's time as a human is almost up, and Eric still dreams of finding the girl who saved him even though he does not want to lose Ariel ("If Only – Quartet"). Sebastian returns to the sea and tells an angry King Triton about Ariel's deal with Ursula.

On Ariel's last day as a human, Grimsby has arranged a contest for all foreign princesses to sing for Eric, so he may choose one for his bride ("The Contest"). Eric isn't interested in any of them, and Ariel asks to participate, dancing for him. Eric picks her, but before they can embrace, Ursula appears, declaring that the sun has set and Ariel now belongs to her. Flotsam and Jetsam grab Ariel to take her back to the sea. King Triton arrives to confront his sister, agreeing to take Ariel's place. Ursula claims the trident and declares herself queen ("Poor Unfortunate Souls" (Reprise)). She banishes Triton with a wave of the trident. During a battle with Eric's ship, Ariel grabs Ursula's Nautilus shell and regains her voice. Ursula begs Ariel to return the shell to her, as her power is contained within it. Ariel is torn but destroys the shell just in time, which restores King Triton to his throne and daughter.

Eric and Ariel are reunited on the beach, and Eric asks King Triton for his blessing to marry Ariel. King Triton says that it is Ariel's place to answer, and she accepts Eric's proposal. King Triton then says goodbye to his daughter (If only (Reprise)). In honor of his daughter, Triton declares peace between the humans and merfolk. Ariel and Eric are married and sail away on a ship ("Finale").

Changes from the 1989 film

In adapting the film into a live stage musical, the following significant changes are made:

The shark chase sequence that introduced Ariel and Flounder early in the film has been replaced by a new introductory song for Ariel in which she admires a fork from "The World Above". Other new songs are "Human Stuff", "I Want the Good Times Back", "She's in Love", "Her Voice", "Sweet Child", "Positoovity", "Beyond My Wildest Dreams", "One Step Closer", If Only" and "The Contest", and some songs from the film are extended, such as "Fathoms Below". "Under the Sea" is the same as the film version, but in the film it was performed while Sebastian is trying to stop Ariel from daydreaming about Eric; in the musical it occurs later, after King Triton destroys Ariel's collection of human things.

The musical depicts Ursula as King Triton's sister, a concept that was included in an early version of the film but did not make the final product.[27] For the stage adaptation, Ursula and Triton are explicitly equal, and upon the death of their father, Poseidon, Ursula received a magic nautilus shell while her brother received the trident. Each ruled half the oceans, until Ursula's cruelty and use of black magic led to Triton deposing her and assuming full reign over the entire ocean world. Ursula's nautilus shell embodies her power, while in the film it was merely a necklace Ursula used to store Ariel's voice. Ursula also uses the shell to spy on Ariel, while in the film she used Flotsam and Jetsam for that purpose. In the musical Ariel defeats Ursula by destroying this shell. Ursula is destroyed when her shell is broken; she does not grow to monstrous proportions as in the film.[28]

In the musical, the storm at sea sequence is simplified, and Eric merely falls overboard; his sheepdog Max is not in the stage version, and there is no gunpowder explosion. Ursula's alter ego Vanessa is not included, thereby omitting the subplot of Eric's brainwashing, leading to "The Contest". In the movie, Flotsam and Jetsam are killed when Ursula accidentally zaps them with the trident; in the musical they swim away after Ariel takes Ursula's magic shell.

Musical numbers

Music by Alan Menken and All Lyrics by Glenn Slater, except as noted:

*Lyrics by Howard Ashman

Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater

The songs "Where I Belong" (Eric) and Ursula's reprise of "Her Voice" were cut and the "Finale" was re-worked after the Denver tryout. It included a short reprise of "Fathoms Below". Also, the duet between Ariel and Eric was originally a bit longer with a poetic device about him being her land and her being his sea. Three other songs were cut from the show before the tryout but were available on the leaked demo tape. These included Ursula's "Wasting Away", "All Good Things Must End", and an alternate version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)". Two reprises are included on the original Broadway cast recording as separate tracks. The Entr'acte is not listed and does not have a track on the Broadway cast recording.

European version

The European version of the show, now playing in Utrecht in the Netherlands, Moscow, Russia, and Tokyo, Japan, has a slightly altered songlist (different order, omitted, replaced or combined songs). Carlotta is entirely omitted, leaving Grimsby with her lines in "Beyond My Wildest Dreams". Omitted songs include "Human Stuff", "I Want Good Times Back" and "Kiss the Girl". It adds a song called "Daddy's Little Girl (Pappie's Kleine Meisje)"

Roles and original cast

Character Original Broadway Cast Character Description
Princess Ariel Sierra Boggess The beautiful, adventurous and headstrong primary protagonist of the musical, dreaming of life on land instead of "under the sea". She is the youngest daughter of King Triton, and the apparent niece of Ursula.
Prince Eric Sean Palmer The musical's handsome and hopeful secondary protagonist. He is destined to recover the girl that saved him from drowning, ignorant to the fact that it is Ariel, with whom he eventually falls in love.
King Triton Norm Lewis The strict but caring father of Ariel, and ruler over Atlantica. He originally hates humans, due to the loss of his wife, causing him to commonly reprimand Ariel for her constant human explorations, but eventually realizes it is best to let her follow her dreams. He is the apparent brother of Ursula.
Ursula Sherie Rene Scott The musical's sinister and cunning primary antagonist. She tricks Ariel into trading her voice for a pair of human legs in order to hopefully win Prince Eric's heart, only to attempt to take advantage of Ariel's naivety. She is the apparent sister of King Triton, and aunt of Ariel.
Sebastian Tituss Burgess Ariel's musical and practical guardian, Triton's faithful servant, and court composer. He serves as the musical's primary comic relief, and reluctantly assists Ariel in her efforts to charm Prince Eric.
Flounder Cody Hanford and J.J. Singleton, Trevor Braun and Brian D'Addario Ariel's loyal companion. He often accompanies Ariel on her excursions in search of human artifacts.
Scuttle Eddie Korbich He believes he is an expert on human artifacts, although he is mainly incorrect, and is often consulted by Ariel for information on her discovered "treasures". He also serves as a comic relief, alongside Sebastian.
Flotsam Tyler Maynard One of Ursula's sly and slippery henchmen.
Jetsam Derrick Baskin Another one of Ursula's cunning henchmen.
Grimsby Jonathan Freeman Prince Eric's faithful servant and friend. Seemingly a close friend of Eric's late father, Grimsby's main initiative is to ensure that Eric marries a princess to maintain his promise to the deceased king. He realizes Ariel is a princess, and is more than happy to let them wed.
Chef Louis John Treacy Egan The castle chef, who tries to capture Sebastian and cook him for dinner.
Carlotta Heidi Blickenstaff Carlotta is seemingly the castle's primary maid and housekeeper. Despite the remarks of her fellow maids and servants, she is exceptionally kind to Ariel and does her best to make her feel comfortable.

† Cody Hanford and J.J. Singleton were first cast as Flounder, but had to leave the show shortly after opening because they had grown taller than Sierra Boggess. Trevor Braun and Brian D'Addario replaced them. D'Addario was the vocalist on the original cast recording and performed on the show's opening night.

Original Broadway cast recording

Disney's The Little Mermaid: Original Broadway Cast Recording is the cast album for the 2008 musical. It was released on February 26, 2008 by Disney Records, produced by Alan Menken and features performances from the show's cast, which includes Boggess, Burgess, Scott, Lewis and Korbich. The recording contains twenty-nine songs from the musical. It was nominated for a Grammy Award.[29] It ranked No. 26 when it entered the Billboard 200 albums chart in March 2008, the second highest position for a cast album in 25 years (after Rent).[30]

Response

Audience response of the targeted family demographic to the musical has been generally positive.[31] Critics gave the show a mixed response, with some praising it,[32] and some calling it "less than witty"[33] and "bloated".[34] Ben Brantley of the New York Times was especially critical, saying that the "charm-free" musical is "stripped of the movie’s generation-crossing appeal. Coherence of plot, endearing quirks of character, even the melodious wit of the original score (supplemented by new, substandard songs...) have been swallowed by an unfocused spectacle."[35] Time Magazine, however, commented, "It was one of the most ravishing things I have ever seen on a Broadway stage."[36]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2008 Tony Awards[37] Best Original Score Alan Menken (music), Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater (lyrics) Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Musical Natasha Katz Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[38] Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sierra Boggess Nominated
Outstanding Set Design George Tsypin Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Natasha Katz Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[39] Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
Drama League Award[40] Distinguished Performance Award Sierra Boggess Nominated
Broadway.com Audience Awards[41] Favorite New Broadway Musical Nominated
Favorite Leading Actress in a Broadway Musical Sierra Boggess Nominated
Favorite Featured Actor in a Broadway Musical Tituss Burgess Nominated
Favorite Featured Actress in a Broadway Musical Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
Favorite Diva Performance Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Female) Sierra Boggess Won
Favorite New Broadway Song "If Only" Nominated
Favorite New Broadway Song "She's In Love" Nominated
Grammy Awards[29] Best Musical Show Album Nominated

References

External links

  • Template:Ibdb title
  • Song list at DenverPost.com, dated August 17, 2007
  • Article about a preview of the show at Yahoo Broadway, dated October 11, 2007
  • CD

Template:The Little Mermaid (Andersen)

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