Little Mermaid voice visits State Theatre Sunday

Royalty doesn’t typically saunter through our fair valley, but Sunday will be the exception to this rule as the State Theatre plays host to Walt Disney’s Ariel, live in-concert. Broadway star and actress Jodi Benson, the original voice of the underwater princess in the 1989 classic “The Little Mermaid,” will provide the pipes as she grace the stage to belt out a variety of show tunes and other memorable Disney standards.

“We are going to have a really great time together,” Benson said, “The first act is going to focus mostly on Broadway and we’re going to incorporate the community as well. We’ve got a 150 piece choir, we have dance troupes and we have some wonderful Penn State talent that I’m going to be singing with in duet form, so we’re trying to just make a great community event and raise awareness of the State Theatre. Our second act is going to be Disney, and again, we’re going to incorporate children, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Although most famous for voicing the first princess of the Disney Renaissance, Th

The perpetually peppy Benson has loaned her vocal chords to a surplus of animated characters that fell everywhere from Thumbelina to Barbie from the two “Toy Story” sequels and she is grateful for the chances that she has had.

“I’m just thrilled with the opportunities that I’ve had in my life for family entertainment and children. Obviously all of my work with Disney has been amazing, my characters, I’m thrilled with Barbie from “Toy Story” and of course Ariel and “Lady and the Tramp” and all of these opportunities have been so great, but I’ve had just wonderful opportunities with Broadway as well and reaching my childhood dreams in New York, from being a little child and wanting to be on Broadway and getting to experience those things with different shows. I’m very proud to be a part of the various projects that I’ve been able to journey along with.”

Although Benson clearly has her fins full, HHer other job is equally as important as she is a full-time home-school mother to her two children, son McKinley and daughter Delaney, a high schooler and a sixth grader who grow up initially a bit confused and hesitant after hearing the voice of that iconic redhead singing from their television screen.

“They’re thrilled, they love my job,” Benson said. “They’re 13 and 11 now, so we’ve been down this great journey for a while and when they were younger of course it was a little bit startling at first to kind of put two and two together of what mommy does, but now it’s just great for the whole family. We get to have such wonderful opportunities to get to be together and experience travel together, it’s just been a great, great experience for the kids.”

And it’s only natural that Benson’s children would be affected by the prowess of their mother, but what’s perhaps most interesting about Benson and her career is the way the she influenced those born after the release of her hallmark film.

Take a look around and you’ll notice that there was a spike in the name “Ariel” amongst girls in 1989 and 1990 which can be attributed precisely to Benson.

“It is neat, it’s very fun coming across the kids that are named Ariel for the character,” Benson said. “We’re running on three or four different generations because we do our re-releases or re-packaging every seven years and that’s for the purpose of getting that next generation excited. It’s really neat to see the kids that are grown now that do have that name and it’s pretty amazing that we’re dealing with children, parents and grandparents that have been affected by this film and this particular character, so we’re really proud of that.”