We’ve all got a favourite Disney movie – go on, admit it, you do. Whether you’re a Disney fan from way back when or not, we can all name our favourite. Mine is Aladdin. My niece’s current go-to is Frozen.
But one that comes close to top of the pops for many people would have to be The Little Mermaid. It’s number one for Malcom Huddle, music director for PLOS’ New Year’s production of the The Little Mermaid. “I was about five years old I think [when I first saw the film]. I remember always wanting to watch it with my grandmother”, comments Huddle. “I also remember being terrified of Ursula!”.
PLOS’ Mermaid Directior Gina Goss was few years older than Huddle when she first saw the animated version of Ariel, and it certainly holds a place of significance for her. “It’s one of my favourite Hans Christen Andersen fairytales, (glad the Disney version has a happy ending!) and the opportunity to work on the musical version was a dream come true”, says Goss. “Menken’s score and songs help tell the story with both his iconic tunes, and new songs that are catchy and memorable. There are so many fun moments in the show, but equally, some poignant ones as well”.
The casting within an iconic story is critical to the success of any production, and never more so than with The Little Mermaid. Goss had very clear ideas of the qualities she was looking for in her Ariel – “a beautiful voice as well as an exceptional actor and dancer, [and] the ability to play a teenager who is headstrong, but at the same time innocent and naïve”. These very qualities were found in PLOS’ Hannah Kyberd. Having previously worked on Legally Blonde in the PLOS ensemble back in with the company, she now steps into the leading role. “Through out most of my performance career, people had often likened me to Disney princesses”, says Kyberd. “It seems to be something I can do naturally, presumably because of my history with classical forms of dance. Performing as a Disney character is different to performing as anyone else. There is always that extra touch of magic, optimism, joy, and feminine strength. Once the opportunity arose to audition for the show, I knew I had to do it. It felt meant to be. I said to myself, “that’s what is going to define me this year.”
A Disney princess needs her prince, and filling the shoes of Prince Eric is Jesse Thomas. “Eric has this just pure joy and excitement when he is out on the ocean”, reflects Thomas. “I don’t believe I’m as energetic as Eric is. I feel like he lives every day to his fullest, where as I can spend hours in bed laughing at memes and vine compilations or playing video games – he is definitely more active and outside than I am”. The Little Mermaid marks Thomas’ seventh show with PLOS, and he’s not planning on stopping any time soon. “For me, I think the PLOS family you become a part of when you do a show with them is what brings me back. […] I think I’ll work with PLOS my whole life if i get the chance”.
Huddle has also been a member of the PLOS family since 2006 and is enjoying being back with such a friendly and supportive team. Having worked on Wicked with the company in January 2017, Huddle is familiar with the challenges large shows will being with them, and a Disney show is no different. “The biggest challenge is definitely the amount of underscoring – the longest dialogue break in the show is only about three minutes long, with practically every scene having underscoring and the orchestra playing for almost the entire show, with dialogue and staging cues needing to be aligned perfectly with the music”, says Huddle. “Every aspect of the show is very closely linked to the music, giving a very cinematic feel to the score and on stage performance as the audience watches”.
With the orchestra so heavily involved, a great many musical highlights can be found in the show. Ask Kyberd of her favourite, and she does not hesitate to answer. “[…] ‘Part of Your World’, of course. It is such a classic song, one that almost everyone knows or has heard in their lifetime. It is a song of utter desire, and that is easy to relate to. Ariel has more depth than people tend to think she does. And a lot of that is unearthed in this song, I believe. It is her dream, and though at the time it is unrealistic, this does not stop her from delving in to the joy of her fantasy”.
PLOS’ The Little Mermaid opens on December 31st and runs through until January 10th.
Tickets are available through http://artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au