A simple mer-girl, sick of swimming, gives up her flippers in favor of a pair of legs to win over a prince. It’s a tale as old as time. Well, no, that’s that other Disney story. This one is as old as 1837 when Danish author Hans Christian Andersen penned the fairy tale. Adapted for Broadway in 2008, The Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village puts on a production of The Little Mermaid, the beloved musical with music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater and book by Doug Wright, through Feb. 23.
Hicksville native Kimberly Immanuel is the lucky actress selected to play Princess Ariel.
“I idolized Ariel,” she said. “I drove my mom crazy singing the ‘ahs’—she’ll say it ‘til this day! I can’t believe I’m getting to sing the songs on the stage.”
The musical has all of the scenes ingrained in our minds from the Disney animated feature and more added for the stage.
“In the musical version you’re allowed to see inside of Ariel’s head when she’s lost her voice,” explained Immanuel. “So there are these moments where the audience is able to keep up with what’s going on inside [her mind] in a way that the movie can’t.”
Prince Eric, who regularly tops ‘hottest Disney princes’ lists on the internet, is played by Jeff Sullivan.
“Prince Eric is in a place where he’s forced to marry to become King,” said Sullivan. “He wants to be carefree, to go about and see the world and discover and find new land and all these different things. And so upon that he falls in love instead of being forced to find love.”
He added, “My favorite moment is ‘One Step Closer’ where they find a way to communicate through dance. We’ve communicated this entire show simply through a one-way street of me kind of talking at [Ariel]. Then we go into this idea that Ariel comes up with of dancing and we communicate through that.”
Ryan Gregory Thurman takes on the role of Sebastian, the crab appointed advisor to King Triton.
“I like to make sure that we remember that all of these characters, even if they’re fish or they’re humans or they’re mermaids, they all have heart,” Thurman said. “They all have something they’re searching for. There’s a love that they have for one another.”
He added, “This Alan Menken score has beautiful sweeping music. It gives adults something and it gives the kids something to look forward to because they have the same kind of exuberant feeling that they would have watching the movie.”
“It’s not often you get handed a role and they say she’s half octopus,” said Courtney Balan, who plays villainous, eight-tentacled Ursula. “When that comes your way it kind of opens the door for all kinds of fun things you can do.”
Oyster Bay resident Balan loves performing “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” Ursula’s signature song that often sits atop ‘best Disney villain song’ lists.
“I get excited to get to that one because I know everyone’s waiting for that one,” she said, “and it’s this big final scene of act one. I feel that energy we’ve been building up to.”
King Triton is a reasonable merman. He expects his rules to be obeyed, but teenage daughter Ariel has her own dreams and goes off to find a sea witch to help her achieve them.
“In the movie we don’t really have a backstory about who Ursula is to Triton,” said Warren Nolan, who portrays the king of an undersea kingdom, and indicated the audience learns more about their relationship in the stage adaptation.
“[The show] tells really complex stories in ways that children can understand while also giving themes that are still heartfelt to adults,” Nolan explained. “Kids, they’re looking at it as mermaids and humans, right? But in the end, they’re learning about the fact that we’re all on the same planet. We all exist in the same way and love is love.”
The Little Mermaid is a beautiful love story full of irresistible songs. See the classic musical through Feb. 23 at The Argyle Theatre, 34 West Main St., Babylon, NY 11702. For tickets visit argyletheatre.com.
—With reporting by Waldo Cabrera