The Little Mermaid is a stage musical adaptation of film of the same name produced by Disney Theatrical that debuted in Denver in previews from July to September 2007 before beginning Broadway previews in November of that year. It closed on August 30, 2009 after 50 previews and 685 performances and since, various tours have begun. The show is currently licensed (with heavy revisions) through Music Theatre International, as is the case with all Disney stage musicals.
The story opens with Prince Eric, his adviser, Grimsby, and sailors aboard a ship at sea, discussing the "mythical" merfolk that supposedly live under the sea. Grimsby tries to tell Eric that he must return to court to fulfill his birthright as king. However, he hears a beautiful voice and commands it to be followed ("Fathoms Below").
Deep on the ocean floor in the merfolk's kingdom, a concert in honor of a defeated coup d'état by Ursula, the sea witch, is underway, being performed by the daughters of Triton, the sea king. King Triton's court composer, Sebastian, has composed a song for the girls to perform ("King Triton's Daughters"). However, the youngest, Ariel, is not there for her solo, bringing the concert to a grinding halt. She has forgotten about it entirely, and is swimming around the surface, admiring her new found item, a fork. She reveals that she is fascinated with the human world ("The World Above"). Together with her best friend, Flounder, she visits Scuttle and his fellow seagulls to ask about the human things she's collected, and he explains them somewhat erroneously ("Human Stuff").
Elsewhere, Ursula is planning revenge against her brother, King Triton. She explains that she was banished from the palace because she used black magic, and tells her minions, Flotsam and Jetsam, to keep an eye on her lovely young niece, whom she thinks will be the key to getting the crown and trident ("I Want the Good Times Back").
When Ariel returns home, she is berated by King Triton, who is angered to learn that she has been on the surface again as contact between the merfolk and human world is forbidden. She rushes off, upset, and King Triton assigns Sebastian, whom Ariel made a laughing stock because of her absence at the concert, to watch over her and make sure she doesn't get into any trouble. She sits alone in her grotto, which contains her collection of human things, and sings about how she does not believe humans are so bad ("Part of Your World").
Ariel and Flounder meet Scuttle at the surface to see Prince Eric's ship and the people on it up close. Grimsby tries to reason with Eric telling him he must find a bride and take his place as king. A storm suddenly hits, and he is tossed overboard. He almost drowns, but Ariel saves him and drags him to shore. She realizes that she is falling in love with him, and vows to somehow find a way to be with him ("Part of Your World (Reprise)").
Ariel returns home, and her changed behavior makes her sisters and Flounder suspect that she's fallen in love ("She's In Love"). Back on land, Eric is determined to the find the woman who saved his life, but the only clue he has is ("Her Voice"). He and Grimsby come up with the idea of holding a ball where foreign princesses will sing to him in hopes that one will be the girl for whom he is looking.
King Triton learns that Ariel saved a human from drowning, and confronts her about what happened to her mother ("The World Above (Reprise)"). As they quarrel, he uses his trident to destroy her human collection. Sebastian arrives and tries to comfort her. Furious with him for slipping out the truth to her father, she decides to run away. He tries reason with her by pointing out the wonders of the undersea world ("Under the Sea"). As all the sea creatures join in the jamboree, she swims away with Flounder. As she tries to run away, she is stopped by Flotsam and Jetsam. They sweet talk her into seeking help from Ursula ("Sweet Child").
Ariel goes to Ursula, who presents a deal: she will be turned into a human for three days, during which she has to get the kiss of true love from Eric. If she does, she will be human permanently; if not, her soul will belong to Ursula and she will spend eternity in her "watery hell soaked lair." As payment for the deal, she will have to give up her voice, which would stay safe in Ursula's magic shell. Ariel is unsure about this because of her father telling her that the shell was the fragile life source of Ursula's witchcraft. However, Ursula says it is something she carries stuff inside ("Poor Unfortunate Souls"). Ariel signs the agreement with the ink from Ursula's tentacles. She sings into the shell and swims up to the surface. During this time, Ursula's spell takes effect, and Ariel is transformed into a human.
Sebastian and Flounder bring Ariel, newly human and mute, to the shore. Scuttle and the seagulls give her a pep talk to bring her spirits up and get her used to her new legs ("Positoovity"). Thinking she is being attacked by seagulls, Eric chases them off. When she tries to speak to him, she realizes she can't talk. He brings her back to his palace, where the head mistress, Carlotta, and the maids bathe and dress her nicely for her night out with him. She is fascinated by the human world she finds herself in and the maids wonder why Eric would bring such a girl to the palace ("Beyond My Wildest Dreams"). That night Chef Louis cooks dinner for Ariel, Grimsby, and Eric. He almost cooks Sebastian for the grand finale, who manages to escape as Louis, the other chefs, and the maids start chasing after him ("Les Poissons"/"Les Poissons (Reprise)"). Later, Eric takes Ariel to the ballroom and teaches her to dance ("One Step Closer"). Meanwhile, Ursula is anxiously waiting for the three days to end and sends Flotsam and Jetsam to hurry things along ("I Want The Good Times Back (Reprise)").
The next evening, after taking Ariel on a tour of the kingdom, Eric takes her on a quiet boat ride through a lagoon. Sebastian and Scuttle watch anxiously, waiting for them to kiss. Sebastian and some of the lagoon animals try to create a romantic atmosphere for him to kiss her ("Kiss the Girl"). Just before they do so, Flotsam and Jetsam give the boat an "electric shock" and swim away gloating ("Sweet Child (Reprise)"). As the second day ends, Sebastian gives Ariel a pep talk in order to help her get Eric the next day. Carlotta arrives to get her ready for bed and tells her about the singing contest which is to be held the next day. As she wishes she could tell Eric everything King Triton worries about where she has gone, Sebastian is concerned for her since her time as a human is almost up, and Eric still dreams of finding the girl who saved him even though he does not want to lose Ariel ("If Only (Quartet)"). Afterwards, Sebastian returns to the sea and rehearses his apology and explanation to King Triton. Sebastian and Flounder tell an angry King Triton about Ariel's deal with Ursula. Fearful for her life, he races off to find her.
On Ariel's last day as a human the contest takes place. All of the foreign princesses sing to Eric to the tune of "Part of Your World" to see if he can recognize the girl for whom he is looking ("The Contest"). All of them fail to do so. Ariel chooses that moment to dance for him, and he picks her. Ursula then appears, floods the ballroom, and tells her that the sun has set and she has lost. Flotsam and Jetsam grab her and take her back to the sea.
King Triton arrives to confront his sister and rescue Ariel, who has returned to her mermaid form. He agrees to take her place, and Ursula celebrates her victory as she claims the trident and declares herself queen ("Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)"). She banishes him with a wave of the trident. Eric's ship arrives and she uses the trident to raise the sea level higher, having his interference out of the way. While she is distracted, Ariel then grabs the magic shell, regains her voice, and threatens to smash it. Terrified, Flotsam and Jetsam swim away. Ursula begins to sweet talk her, saying she can turn her into a human again and reunite her with Eric. She starts to believe her and begins to hand the shell over. Believing the shell is within her grasp, Ursula tells her that since they have proven she was not a "daddy's girl" anymore, King Triton will rot on the ocean floor forever and she will trust her instead. Furious, she yanks the shell away and smashes it, which destroys Ursula. King Triton reappears and is reunited with her.
King Triton soon realizes that he must let Ariel go and transforms her back into a human ("If Only (Reprise)"). She and Eric are reunited on the beach and Eric and Grimsby are introduced to King Triton. In honor of her, he declares peace between the humans and merfolk. Ariel and Eric are married and sail away happily on a ship ("Finale").
Denver, Colorado tryout (2007)
The musical had a pre-Broadway tryout at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Ellie Caulkins Opera House July 26, 2007 through September 9, 2007. Every seat (approximately 95,000 seats) for the 6-week run was sold out.
The musical began previews on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 3, 2007 and was temporarily shut down on November 10, 2007 due to the Broadway stagehand strike. That ended on November 28, 2007 and the show resumed previews the next day and the official opening date was postponed from the previously planned December 6, 2007 to January 10, 2008. Jodi Benson and Pat Carroll who both starred in the 1989 film as Ariel and Ursula respectively, attended the Opening Night ceremony.
The original Broadway production closed on August 30, 2009, after 50 previews and 685 performances. Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions said "it would be fiscally irresponsible to our shareholders to risk operating losses with such a big show in the historically challenging fall months. We are closing the Broadway production to concentrate on the long future life of this title."
Direction was by Francesca Zambello, making her Broadway debut, with choreography by Stephen Mear. Scenic design was by George Tsypin, costume design by Tatiana Noginova and lighting design by Natasha Katz. The original cast featured Sierra Boggess in the title role of Ariel, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, Brian D'Addario and Trevor Braun alternate as Flounder, Norm Lewis as Triton, Rene Scott as Ursula, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, Tyler Maynard as Flotsam, Derrick Baskin as Jetsam, Jonathan Freeman as Grimsby, and Treacy Egan as Chef Louis.
To assist the performers in achieving the effect of underwater movement on stage, the actors wear wheel-heeled footwear. To depict the fantasy underwater kingdom, according to the director, the set is "very translucent, takes light beautifully and [is] architectural and sculptural to suggest an underwater world without actually being in real water."
- US Tour (2011)
The First National US Tour of the musical was scheduled to start in the fall of 2010. However it was later announced that the tour would start in 2011. Disney is hopeful to have it tour America.
- Ivins, Utah (2011)
Due to the success of the regional premiere of Tarzan at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins, Utah, Disney Theatrical gave the rights for a regional premiere of The Little Mermaid to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts. The production is scheduled for the Tuacahn's 2011 season.
- St. Louis (2011)
A regional production will take place at the Muny Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri, during its 2011 season, running from July 6 to July 14, 2011.
- Wichita (2011)
A regional production will take place at Music Theatre of Wichita in Wichita, KS in August 2011.
- Sacramento (2012)
The revised production from Europe made its American debut at the Sacramento Music Circus.
- Milburn, New Jersey (2013)
The new production went on to debut at the Paper Mill Playhouse before transferring to Pittsburgh CLO and the Kansas City Starlight Theatre.
- Ivin, Utah (2014 Return Engagement)
By popular demand, the newly revised production will premiere as a return engagement at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre as part the 2014 season.
- Israel (2010-2011)
An Israeli production of the musical run across Israel starring Rinat Gabai as Ariel and Guy Zu-Aretz as Prince Arik.
- Philippines (2011)
Philippine-based Atlantis Productions has secured the rights to the musical and will stage it in Manila from November 18 to December 11, 2011. The best female singer in the Philippines named Rachelle Ann Go will star as Ariel and Erik Santos will appear as Prince Eric.
- Brazil (2011)
T4F, the largest company responsible for bringing Broadway musicals to Brazil is building another theatre and The Little Mermaid will be the opening show. The auditions may occur by the end of 2011 and the idea is to bring new names to the Brazilian musical theatre.
- Netherlands (2012-2013)
The Joop van den Ende division of Stage Entertainment will host a new production of the show. It will be directed by Glenn Casal with costumes by Bob Crowley and open May 12, 2012 at Martini Plaza in Groningen. Pop star Tessa Sunniva van Tol will star as Ariel with Tommie Christiaan as Prince Eric, Marjolijn Touw as Ursula, Roberto de Groot as King Triton and Juan Wells as Sebastian. Ursula's song "I Want the Good Times Back" has been replaced with new song written for the character called "Daddy's Little Angel". Unlike the Broadway production, the International productions include brand new costumes and flying stunts for Ariel, her family, Flounder, and Scuttle.
- Russia (2012-2013)
The Dutch production will transfer to Moscow Russia and open on October 6, 2012. The production will star Natalia Bystrova as Ariel.
- Japan (2013-present)
A replica of the European production will open in Tokyo, Japan on April 7, 2013 as part of Disney's partnership with the Shiki Theatre Company.
Original Broadway Cast
- Ariel (portrayed by Sierra Boggess) - The beautiful, adventurous, independent, determined, stubborn, and headstrong protagonist of the musical, dreaming of life on land instead of living under the sea. She is the youngest daughter of King Triton, and the youngest niece of Ursula.
- Ursula (portrayed by Sherie Rene Scott) - Sea Witch - The musical's sinister and cunning primary antagonist. She tricks Ariel into trading her voice for a pair of human legs in order to hopefully win Prince Eric's heart, only to attempt to take advantage of Ariel's naivety. She is the sister of King Triton, and aunt of Ariel.
- King Triton (portrayed by Norm Lewis) - The strict but caring father of Ariel, and ruler over Atlantica. He originally hates humans, due to the loss of his wife, causing him to commonly reprimand Ariel for her constant human explorations, but eventually realizes it is best to let her follow her dreams. He is the brother of Ursula. He is over protective of Ariel. He is afraid that she will get hurt.
- Prince Eric (portrayed by Sean Palmer) - The musical's handsome and hopeful deuteragonist. He is destined to recover the girl that saved him from drowning, ignorant to the fact that it is Ariel, with whom he eventually falls in love with.
- Sebastian (portrayed by Tituss Burgess) - Crab - Ariel's musical and practical guardian, King Triton's faithful court composer. He serves as the musical's primary comic relief, and reluctantly assists Ariel in her efforts to charm Prince Eric.
- Flounder (portrayed by Trevor Braun/Brian D'Addario*) - Fish - Ariel's best friend. He often accompanies her on her excursions in search of human artifacts.
- Scuttle (portrayed by Eddie Korbich) - Seagull - He believes he is an expert on human artifacts, although he is mainly incorrect, and is often consulted by Ariel for information on her discovered "treasures". He also serves a comic relief, alongside Sebastian.
- Flotsam (portrayed by Tyler Maynard) - Eel - One of Ursula's sly and slippery henchmen.
- Jetsam (portrayed by Derrick Baskin) - Eel - Another one of Ursula's cunning henchmen.
- Grimsby (portrayed by Jonathan Freeman) - Prince Eric's faithful servant and friend. Seemingly a close friend of Eric's late father, his main initiative is to ensure that Eric marries a princess to maintain his promise to the deceased king. However, once he realizes Ariel is a princess, he is more than happy to let them wed, especially since her father is King Triton, the ruler of the sea.
- Chef Louis (portrayed by John Treacy Egan)- The castle chef, who tries to capture Sebastian and cook him for dinner.
- Carlotta (portrayed by Heidi Blickenstaff) - Seemingly the castle's primary maid and housekeeper. Despite the remarks of her fellow maids and servants, she is exceptionally kind to Ariel and does her best to make her feel comfortable.
The production first presented in the Netherlands brought many changes to the show in order to fix certain elements that were criticized in the US, as well as create an easily licensed version. This included using only a minimal set, with more aerial stunts for many characters, as well as many instances of revised dialogue and music. Notable changes include:
- The entire opening sequence was revamped to better reflect the film, with Ariel’s song “The World Above” appearing at the beginning of the show. “Fathoms Below” follows immediately after, leading into the introductions of Flounder and Scuttle. Due to this placement, “Human Stuff” is cut. (In the JR. and KIDS versions, the song remains at the expense of “Positoovity” later on, although only Scuttle is featured.)
- Ursula’s first song, “I Want the Good Times Back,” is replaced with “Daddy’s Little Angel.” As opposed to focusing on her father’s death and her banishment by Triton, the new number gives her more backstory, making her responsible for the deaths of her siblings, Triton being the only one she could not kill.
- ”The World Above (Reprise)” is cut and replaced with “If Only (Triton’s Lament)” in order to make Triton appear more caring. His destruction of Ariel’s grotto does not feature singing, and now takes place between “Under the Sea” and “Sweet Child” to better fit the tone.
- The verse featuring Scuttle’s seagull friends in “Positoovity” is cut, most likely to place more focus on Scuttle and Ariel. The rest of the number remains intact, although in the JR. and KIDS versions it is replaced by a solo version of “Human Stuff” near the beginning of the show.
- ”I Want The Good Times Back (Reprise)” and “Sweet Child (Reprise)” are substituted with a reprise of “Daddy’s Little Angel.”
- Ursula’s death is given a stronger build-up. As Triton is already weakened, it is revealed that his fear of humans is because they killed Ariel’s mother, a recurring theme that is inserted throughout the show. Ursula reveals that she was actually the one who did it, causing Ariel to break the shell out of anger.
- Main article: The Little Mermaid Cast Lists
Difference between the musical and film
- The shark chase sequence that introduces Ariel and Flounder has been removed and replaced with "The World Above".
- Ursula's magic shell is just a large nautilus shell, whereas in the 1989 film she wears it as a necklace.
- In the musical Ursula is King Triton's sister just like in earlier versions of the film.
- Ursula and Triton are equal, and upon the death of their father, Poseidon, she received the magic shell while he received the trident. Each ruled half the oceans, until her cruelty and use of black magic led to him deposing her and assuming full reign over the entire ocean world. This is changed for the new European version and the Sacramento production, where she is his older sister and receives a magic ball (instead of shell) as a gift from their father to keep her difficult behaviour under control. She uses it to kills her father and older sisters and rules the ocean up until the time that King Triton comes of age and takes her throne.
- The "Under the Sea" sequence has been moved to after King Triton destroys Ariel's collection of human treasures rather than before. In some new productions outside of Broadway, however, it is back to where it was in the film.
- The magic shell allows Ursula to spy on people, so she does not "use" Flotsam and Jetsam's eyes as in the film.
- Eric's sheepdog, Max is not included.
- Ursula's alter ego, Vanessa, is not included thereby omitting the subplot of Eric's brainwashing by her as well as the subsequent end. In place of it, there is a contest with foreign princesses singing songs to see if Eric can recognize any of them to have Ariel's voice.
- There was originally going to be a scene in the demo featuring Vanessa, where Ursula transformed solely to be cruel rather than out of desperation, also using a recording of Ariel's voice to hypnotize Eric, but it was cut alongside the intended song "All Good Things Must End" because Ursula's actress in the final version, Sherie Rene Scott, felt this was out of character for what she envisioned of her, and was instead replaced by "I Want The Good Times Back".
- In the musical, Ariel does not get her voice back until after she is turned back into a mermaid.
- In the film, Flotsam and Jetsam are killed when Ursula accidentally zaps them with the trident. In the musical they swim away after Ariel takes Ursula's magic shell and their fate is unknown after that.
- Ursula is destroyed simply by breaking the magic shell, as staging her becoming a giant and subsequent impalement on a ship would be too complicated and expensive to stage.
- In the European and Sacramento productions Ariel and King Triton learn during the last confrontation that Ursula killed Ariel's mother.
- In the musical Ariel destroys Ursula instead of Eric.
- Scuttle sings in the musical, while in the film he only hums after Ariel and Flounder escape from the shark and before and during "Kiss the Girl", he sings a very bad squawking sound.
- Flotsam and Jetsam do not sing in the film, but they do in the musical.
- Unlike in the film Flounder sings in the musical.
- Musical Numbers
The following musical numbers were written for the musical and not included in the film:
- "The World Above" - Ariel
- "Human Stuff" - Scuttle, Seagulls
- "I Want the Good Times Back" - Ursula, Flotsam, Jetsam, Eels**
- "Daddy's Little Angel" - Ursula, Flotsam, Jetsam***
- "She's In Love" - Mersisters, Flounder
- "Her Voice" - Prince Eric
- "The World Above (Reprise)" - King Triton
- "Sweet Child" - Flotsam, Jetsam
- "Positoovity" - Scuttle, Seagulls
- "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" - Ariel, Maids, Carlotta
- "Les Poissons (Reprise)" - Chef Louis
- "All Good Things Must End" - Vanessa*
- "One Step Closer" - Prince Eric
- "I Want the Good Times Back (Reprise)" - Ursula, Flotsam, Jetsam**
- "Daddy's Little Angel (Reprise)' - Ursula, Flotsam, Jetsam***
- "If Only (Quartet)" - Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian, and King Triton
- "The Contest" - Grimsby, Princesses
- "Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)" - Ursula
- "If Only (Reprise)" - King Triton, Ariel
- "Finale" - Prince Eric, Ariel, Ensemble
(*=Was cut in the final version at the insistence of Sherie Rene Scott, the chosen actress for Ursula, would have been sung by Emily Skinner) (**=Not originally on Broadway, but included at the insistence of Sherie Rene Scott, the actress for Ursula) (***=Not included on Broadway but in the European and Sacramento productions)
- The Little Mermaid Broadway Doll is available on eBay.
- Most of the musical souvenirs can be found on DisneyStore.com and eBay.
- The Broadway Soundtrack can be purchased on Amazon.com .
- Before the musical closed Sierra Boggess left the show to work on other things. She still came to visit her former costars and remains friends with them to this day. She was there as a guest for the final performance.
- Cody Hanford and J.J. Singleton were the original Flounder, but had to leave the show shortly after opening because they had grown taller than Sierra Boggess. Trevor Braun and Brian D'Addario replaced them. D'Addario was the vocalist on the original cast recording and performed on the opening night.
- To make room for the musical Disney closed "Beauty and the Beast" on July 29, 2007 due to fears that the audience and tourists would fight over them.
- In the Japanese version, Ariel is 18 years old.
- The Little Mermaid at Internet Broadway Database
- The Little Mermaid at MTI a link to Musical Theater International for those who wish to the licenses the show for their community theater.
- The Little Mermaid Japan
- The Little Mermaid at Facebook
- Sierra Boggess at Twitter
- TreeSong Guitars
- Tessa Sunniva van Tol
- Sherie Rene Scott
Awards and Nominations
- 62nd Tony Awards
- Best Original Score: Alan Menken (music); Howard Ashma] and Glenn Slater (lyrics) Nominated
- Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz Nominated
- 2008 Drama Desk Awards
- Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Sierra Boggess] Nominated
- Outstanding Set Design of a Musical: George Tsypin] Nominated
- Outstanding Lighting Design: Natasha Katz Nominated
- Outer Critics Circle Awards
- Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical: Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
- Drama League Award
- Distinguished Performance Award: Sierra Boggess Nominated
- 9th Annual Broadway.com Audience Awards
- Favorite New Broadway Musical Nominated
- Favorite Leading Actress in a Broadway Musical: Sierra Boggess Nominated
- Favorite Featured Actor in a Broadway Musical: Tituss Burgess Nominated
- Favorite Featured Actress in a Broadway Musical: Sherie Rene Scott Nominated
- Favorite Diva Performance: Sherie Rene Scott] Nominated
- Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Female): Sierra Boggess WINNER
- Favorite New Broadway Song: "If Only" Nominated
- Favorite New Broadway Song: "She's In Love" Nominated
- Grammy Awards
- Best Musical Show Album Nominated