In 1984, actress Daryl Hannah made a name for herself by donning a scaly fish tail to play a mermaid in the Ron Howard film Splash.
Five years later, Disney came out with an animated musical film, based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, which followed the tale — no pun intended — of a little mermaid named Ariel.
What these two mer-women had in common is that they both wanted to know what it would be like to become human and to fall in love.
The moral may have critics saying, “be careful what you wish for,” but like most modern-day fairy tales, true love usually does win out in the end, and the Disney version of The Little Mermaid is no exception.
Re-imagined for the Broadway stage in 2008, The Little Mermaid is about to make its North Okanagan debut when Center Stage Performing Arts Academy’s Lights of Broadway brings it to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre May 12 and 13.
“Deciding to do The Little Mermaid was not an easy one,” said Charity Van Gameren, Center Stage owner and Lights of Broadway director. “The challenges that the actors, directors, and choreographers face is different than any of our past 15 productions. Many of these characters live underwater. Creating the flow and beauty of an undersea world means going deep to allow the audience to feel they have been transported to this amazing world.”
For those who love the Disney film, the stage musical stays true to the original. It follows the rebellious 16-year-old mermaid whose greatest dream is to be part of the world above the sea.
Swimming in her first leading role is Delaney Tetrault, who says playing Ariel has had its challenges, considering she has to wear a tail and is also silenced by the evil sea witch Ursula for a large part of the production.
“For the whole half of the show, Ariel can only mime her emotion as her voice is taken away. This brought Ariel to a whole new intensity for me, expressing everything through body language and my face,” said Tetrault, who has some things in common with her character.
“Ariel is the youngest of seven girls. I am the youngest of four. Her whole journey is about discovery and curiosity and finding where she belongs. I can relate with her as I find joy and amazement in the little things and I get the privilege of diving into her intricate character.”
Ariel’s only source of information on the world above the water is her dim-witted seagull friend Scuttle, played by Nelya McDowell.
Her overprotective father, King Triton (Steve Friesen), is doing everything within his power to control his daughter and assigns Sebastian, the court crab (Sophia Friesen), to watch over her.
In other parts of the ocean floor, Ursula the Sea Witch (Amy Smith) is seeking revenge against her brother, King Triton, and sees a perfect opportunity to get at him by convincing Ariel to give up her beautiful voice in exchange for feet and the opportunity to be on dry land.
Ariel cannot resist the offer as she has fallen for the dreamy Prince Eric (Ethan Houlbrook), whom she rescued from drowning.
As this musical is set partly under the sea, the other challenge has come from making all the sea creatures and mer-people as colourful and true-to-life as their animated counterparts.
Tetrault, along with Roan Reid who plays Flounder, who has a mad crush on Ariel, and all the mer-sisters and the evil eels have had to wear Heelys (those shoes with the wheel on the heel that makes the wearer look as if he or she is gliding).
“This allows the characters to have a sense of gracefully moving through water,” said Van Gameren. “(However), there have been moments that have been anything but graceful as they have tried to learn this new way of moving. Let’s just say padding on the derriere is recommended.”
The second half of the story follows Ariel learning to use her new found feet, being taken to the palace of Prince Eric, and the romance that blossoms between Ariel and Eric.
For his part as Prince Eric, Houlbrook says he is happy to be standing on two feet, although this time he has to play a more serious role.
“This role is a new challenge as all other roles I have had have been comedic,” he said. “I have had to learn a new way of walking and talking. It is important to pay attention to the small details, gestures and actions of a prince.”
He has also enjoyed the emotional songs he performs as the prince, and to tell the story of someone whose desire is to find the voice that saved him from drowning, and now haunts his dreams.
“It has been very interesting carrying on all of the conversations with Ariel in Act 2 after she loses her voice to Ursula.”
Speaking of the sea witch, her costume is one that will definitely stand out, along with those of the other sea creatures, said Van Gameren.
“The costume for Ursula has had extensive discussion as she is an octopus and is a larger-than-life character with eight legs sprawling across the stage,” she said.
Also sure to grab attention are the sets and special effects, which include the ship that carries Prince Eric and his sailors, Ariel’s sea grotto that explodes when King Triton gets angry, and Eric’s palace where the showdown with Ursula takes place.
“They are meticulously built and designed by Mark and Liza Judd, who are passionate about theatre and put so much attention into detail,” said Van Gameren.
Adding to the excitement are the song and dance numbers.
“The sea of colour is astounding and fun to watch in Under the Sea; the tapping seagulls in Possitoovity are hilarious, and the beautiful movement of Kiss the Girls are all brilliantly choreographed by Cherise McInnes,” said Van Gameren.
“I have an amazing teaching team for Lights of Broadway. To have Cherise doing the choreography and Sarah Mori Jones zeroing in on the actors’ ability to develop and explore their characters has allowed me to focus on the music and directing. I am very grateful for a wonderful collaborative team.”
Center Stage Performing Arts Academy’s Lights of Broadway presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid May 12 at 7 p.m. and May 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are on sale at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.