“The Little Mermaid” is one of Disney’s true treasures, and the popular film was turned into a stage musical for Broadway back in 2008. Now, a touring production of the show done by Pittsburgh CLO, is making its way to Wolf Trap June 29-July 2.
Based on the hit animated 1989 movie, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” which itself is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, the story follows headstrong mermaid Ariel, no longer content to live on the ocean floor under the rule of her father, King Triton. Convinced she’ll find happiness only on land, she sets off to find a world where she belongs, battling a cruel sea witch and finding true love along the way.
The show was written by Alan Menken (music), Doug Wright (book), Glenn Slater and Howard Ashman (lyrics). Glenn Casale directs.
For the Wolf Trap dates, Diana Huley stars as Ariel, Mevlin Abston plays Sebastian, Jennifer Allen is Ursula, Connor Russell plays Flounder, Steven Blanchard plays King Triton and Eric Kunze is Prince Eric.
Broadway veteran and former Arlington native Allen Fitzpatrick plays Grimsby, Prince Eric's caretaker and confidant, who takes part in the songs, “Fathoms Below” and “The Contest.”
Fitzpatrick attended St. Agnes and Bishop O’Connell High School and then headed to the University of Virginia for college. After graduating, he came back to the area to work for a few theaters that were in existence in the ’70s, and then headed to New York to try and make a name for himself.
And that he did. Fitzpatrick graced the Great White Way in 10 different productions, including “Les Misérables,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “42nd Street,” and “Damn Yankees.” He’s also appeared in five national tours and more than 200 regional plays.
“We journeymen actors take whatever comes our way, and when this show came up on my plate, it seemed attractive and was a full year of employment, plus it’s a very good show,” he said. “The production is something I have been proud of in every city we’ve played. We started in Seattle last November and I really enjoy the role I’m playing and the people I’m travelling with.”
Until now, Fitzpatrick hasn’t done too much theater aimed at kids, noting not too many little ones are checking out “Sweeney Todd.” But he doesn’t think “Disney’s Little Mermaid” should be considered just a kid’s show.
“It may be geared a little towards young people, but we have plenty of adults who come out without any child accompaniment and are really very happy with it,” he said. “These are people who may have seen the movie when they were children themselves and want to re-experience it.”
Of course, there are always loads of little girls who dress up like Ariel who come out to the performances and he’s thrilled that they are getting a taste of theater.
Although Fitzpatrick never saw the original Broadway version of the musical, he feels that this touring engagement may have solved some of the problems that kept the show from becoming a juggernaut on Broadway the way “The Lion King” had done previously.
“How you create the world under sea is pretty important to how the show feels and works and that production used roller blading to move the undersea life around, which may not have been a really good choice,” he said. “Our director reinvented the show with his own vision, which involved fish life and the mermaids moving around on wires and the effect is beautiful. Visually, it’s pretty stunning.”
The staged version also has many songs not in the movie, and the story is fleshed out a bit more.
“It moves along nicely and I think the story is a little clearer than it was in the movie,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have a slightly more degree of complexity explaining the back story of Triton and Ursula, and I think those who remember the movie will love this particular version of it.”