The tropics, under the sea or otherwise, seem like a much better place to be as we suffer through midwinter weather in the middle of November. Way down south, deep in the heart of Cambridge, they’ve come up with a tropical paradise that’s all about some fun-filled escapism. This one even comes with mermaids.Well, one mermaid in particular: Ariel, a.k.a. The Little Mermaid.
Launched this week, the Drayton Entertainment stage musical of the popular Disney animated film runs through December 21 at the Dunfield Theatre.
For the one or two people not at least passingly familiar with the 1989 film, itself based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved stories, The Little Mermaid takes us on an adventure as Ariel looks to leave her ocean home in favour of a life on dry land above – going from fin to feet, as it were.
As with the film, all the well-known characters are featured. Most notably, all of Ariel’s (Jayme Armstrong) most faithful friends make the jump from screen to stage: Aidan Tye plays Ariel’s nervous best friend Flounder the fish, with Keith Savage as the goofy seagull Scuttle, and Mark Cassius as the Caribbean crab Sebastian.
A live-action musical, the theatrical version requires more than a little magic to capture the spirit of an animated film. Costumes, lighting and props – and a whole lot of quick changes – are used to create the undersea portions of the story.
“It’s certainly a challenging show to produce,” says Armstrong, who gets to sport a mermaid’s tail as Ariel. For the on-land portions, she comes equipped with her own feet.
It’s a role that she’s very excited to play, the film being the first one she can remember seeing in a theatre.
“Ariel is really near and dear to my heart,” she said this week as the musical got set to open Wednesday. She’s also getting to live out the dream of many young girls who’ve seen the movie.
“When you’re wearing a sparkly fin and seashells, you can’t help but feel like a mermaid,” she laughed.
Armstrong is no stranger to iconic rules, including a few Disney princesses. Her résumé also includes the likes of Mary Poppins, Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, Maria in The Sound of Music, Guinevere in the North American tour of Camelot, Fantine in Les Misérables and a host of others.
“I’ve played some hugely iconic female roles. I put pressure on myself to do justice to them,” she said of the experience.
For Ariel, there’s a Disney princess vibe in play, but she’s also more of an independent person than some of her predecessors.
“Ariel is the master of her own destiny, more than a girl waiting for a boy to kiss her.”
Along with the strong role, there’s a whole lot of magic to the production, she adds. Oh, and the music, much of which is instantly recognizable. The theatrical version contains all of the songs from the Academy Award-winning animated feature film – including “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World,” and “Kiss The Girl” – as well as three new songs from the Broadway show, which debuted in 2008.
Armstrong expects the audiences for the show to be a real mix. The movie is now 25 years old, so there are people who were kids then having their own families now, kids they’ll bring out to see the show. She’ll not be surprised to see an audience filled with little princesses – “a sea of Little Mermaids,” she quips.
The Drayton Entertainment production of The Little Mermaid runs until December 21 at Dunfield Theatre Cambridge. Tickets are $42 ($25 for those under 20 years of age), available online at www.dunfieldtheatrecambridge.com, in person at the box office, or by calling (519) 621-8000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).