Under the Sea

A mermaid, crab, and sea witch kick off Broadway in Austin season with a splash

Favorite Disney tale kicks off Broadway in Austin season with a splash

TUTS 2015-2016 season announcement February 2015 Disney's The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid magically comes to life as a musical at Bass Concert Hall September 29 through October 4. Photo by Bruce Bennett

The latest Disney movie to be turned into a musical is making a stop in Austin during a limited five-city run. You can get an exclusive glimpse at life under the sea when The Little Mermaid presents eight shows at Bass Concert Hall starting September 29.

Translating movies to the stage is always a challenging undertaking — perhaps especially when they are animated. Disney has successfully managed to bring Broadway audiences The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin to name a few. Translating the underwater setting of The Little Mermaid to the stage was especially challenging. After its relatively short Broadway run in 2008 to 2009, the show was reinvented to include an altered song list and a creative way to represent swimming using cables instead of wheeled footwear.  

Melvin Abston, who plays Ariel’s trusted guardian Sebastian in the musical, says the re-imagined show has depth — both literally and figuratively. The actress portraying Ariel spends much of the time attached to a harness to allow her to "swim" through the depths of the sea. “To translate it from movie to stage with a different twist or spin — it’s amazing,” Abston explains. “There’s a lot more humanity in the way things are directed and in the approach we’re taking versus the movie or earlier productions.”

Like most musicals, The Little Mermaid is a feast for the senses with eclectic sets, whimsical costumes, and a rousing score that includes the film’s most memorable song, sung in this production by Abston himself, “Under the Sea.”

Although it’s based on a Disney film and sure to attract little red-headed girls by the dozen, Abston is quick to point out there’s something in it for all ages. “It’s not just a play for kids, although the kids will have fun because there’s some really funny stuff in there, [but] there’s [also] a beautiful message about humanity and relationships.”

While in town, Abston is looking forward to rekindling some friendships he formed when he was in Austin for two months this spring playing Martin Luther King Jr. in Zach Theatre’s All the Way for which he won an Austin Critics Table Award.

“I am excited to be coming back. One word — queso! That and the relationships I made — it’s going to be nice to come back to that weird and wonderful town.”

You can catch Abston and the rest of The Little Mermaid cast September 29 through October 4 at Bass Concert Hall. “If you loved the movie, remind yourself why you fell in love with it initially and find new reasons. There’s some incredible talent in the show … and it’s really, really well done!” exclaims Abston.