Given all the success Disney has found by bringing animated hits like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King to Broadway, it stands to reason that they’d eventually go back to the film that started the studio’s animation renaissance, The Little Mermaid. The film’s composer, Alan Menken, is working on the book for the play.
“I really hadn’t thought about Mermaid for the stage, for the challenge of being under the sea,” said Menken. “As everyone knows, that was one of the difficulties. But once Francesca Zambello started working with George Tsypin — his sets use light in this brilliant way that takes it on to look aquatic or look like the sea, along with all the other stage craft that is available to us — then it became possible. It had actually been in the works for five years, though. We’d been working on it in various ways.”
The other Disney plays have embellished the story to provide more opportunities for songs, a tradition that will be upheld by the stage production of Mermaid. “The original songs by Howard Ashman and I are there. Ten new songs, as well, with Glenn Slater — that’s the name of the lyricist — and I think it’s quite seamless. Like Beauty and the Beast, it’s going to be a very seamless experience, and audiences seem to love it.”
So far, early buzz is good. “We had our first preview last night on Broadway. I received e-mails from a number of people who have all said that it went really, really well.”