For its next production, Millbrook Playhouse will bring “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” to life, with performances on the Ryan Main Stage.
Based on the popular 1989 Disney-animated musical fantasy film, “The Little Mermaid” tells the story of a beautiful mermaid princess who dreams of becoming human. But first she must defy her father, King Triton, and make a deal with her aunt, the evil sea witch Ursula. With some help from her friends, Sebastian the crab, Flounder the guppy and a myriad of other birds and fish, she must get Prince Eric to kiss her before the third sundown or else.
This stage version features classic songs such as “Kiss the Girl,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Part of Your World,” the Academy Award-Winning best original song “Under the Sea,” plus a slew of all new songs.
Returning for her second season, Courtney Laine Self serves as director and choreographer. Her previous Millbrook credits include director and choreographer for “Mary Poppins,” and choreographer for the regional premiere of “My Vaudeville Man.”
“I think this play has themes around people who are struggling with differences between themselves,” Self said. “Triton is trying to protect his kingdom from something he considers a threat, Ursula is dealing with trauma from being seen as disgusting and different from the rest of her family her whole childhood, and Eric and the other sailors can only guess at the world underwater. Ariel wants to pave a different path than what is expected of her — one that is considered not only dangerous, but also impossible.”
Shannon Agnew plays Ursula, whose objective is to take revenge on her brother, King Triton.
“While I am a much more gentle and forgiving soul than Ursula, I think everyone can relate to being consumed with anger and bitterness,” she said. “Ursula just let her anger, bitterness and quest for vengeance go completely unchecked for years, and it makes her fun to play.”
The cast and crew had 11 days to put up the production and Agnew said the technical staff and design team are to be praised.
“The tech elements and designs for this show are exquisite, complexly nuanced and integral to the story telling,” she said. “This production is visually stunning and emotionally captivating, and I promise it will be a thrillingly unique addition to our season.”
In general, Self said she was interested in creating a highly theatrical telling of this story, as opposed to striving for some sense of realism.
“We have to tell a story to the audience that exists underwater and we have to do it without any sort of flying or super expensive devices,” she said. “Personally, I like watching and creating theater that creates a world that requires my imagination and takes me on a journey of wonder and creativity.”
“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” teaches lessons of acceptance, pursuing your most authentic life and joining with someone to pursue a future together.
“To me, it’s about going after what you want and what you know deep within you is right,” Self said. “In this show, a single parent family has to deal with a changing dynamic of norms and understanding. and a young girl is able to bring two worlds threatened by each other together with the power of her heart. Life is messy, but being open and honest always has the best outcome.”
Self’s hope for the audience is a magical experience full of wonder that rouses the imagination — one that wakes up their hopes and dreams and reminds them of the importance of family, community and what it means to unconditionally love and care for someone.
“Most of all, I hope it speaks to that little voice within you that is scared to speak up in a situation where you are one voice against many — a situation where you know you have to be brave to speak some truth,” she said. “This is a story about how important that moment is.”
“I hope the audience comes away feeling empowered by Ariel’s journey, and feeling as if they have been folded into our magical world, blending shore and ocean,” Agnew said. “We promise, this will be a production that brings together the magic of the classic story and unexpected theatrical conventions that will make you fall in love with live theater.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Millbrook Playhouse’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid”
- When: July 8-July 23
- Where: Millbrook Playhouse Ryan Main Stage, 258 Country Club Lane, Mill Hall
- Info: www.millbrookplayhouse.org