DISNEY’S LITTLE MERMAID First Look at The Walnut
Walnut Street Theater (WST) continues its 213th season with the breathtaking Broadway hit for all ages, Disney’s LITTLE MERMAID. Directed by Glenn Casale and choreographed by John MacInnis, production begins November 16, 2021, opens November 24, and continues through January 2, 2022 on the main stage at Walnut.
Based on the beloved story of Hans Christian Andersen and the classic film, Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID is a hauntingly beautiful story of love and letting go. Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, challenges her father’s authority as she dreams of finding her own way in the world above the sea. But what will she give up to make her dreams come true? ‘independence ? Disney’s LITTLE MERMAID will captivate audiences with its timeless story and compelling songs including “Under the Sea”, “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World”. Disney’s LITTLE MERMAID promises to be one of the most spectacular productions ever staged at The Walnut!
The 1989 animated film, written and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, features iconic music and lyrics written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman respectively. It won two Oscars for Best Original Music and Best Original Song (“Under the Sea”) and is widely credited with the launch of The Disney Renaissance of the ’90s. In 2008, the film was adapted for the Broadway scene with additional lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Doug Wright. The production of The Walnut marks the professional Philadelphia regional premiere of the musical on stage.
Glenn Casale, who was last seen on Walnut’s main stage for Shrek The Musical in 2019, is returning to directing. Casale led the 2012 Dutch production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the national tour and several regional productions in the United States. Casale’s revisions to the original Broadway adaptation are now the basis for all major licensed productions around the world. Her work also includes the 1999 Broadway revival of Peter Pan, which received a Tony nomination for Best Cover of a Musical, as well as the Peter Pan nationwide tour and television production A&E. He made Dragapella! at Studio 54, which was nominated for a Drama Desk and two Lucille Lortel Awards. Chris Burcheri returns as Music Director and John MacInnis serves as choreographer for his first WST production. Burcheri is continuing his second season on the main Walnut stage, having provided musical and vocal direction for Beehive – The ’60s Musical this season, as well as Young Frankenstein and Shrek before. He was also Music Director of the WST for Kids series and Associate Conductor on Annie and Holiday Inn. MacInnis has choreographed productions of The Little Mermaid in the Netherlands, Russia and Japan, as well as Beauty and the Beast in five European countries. He was the director / choreographer of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes and Olympic medal ceremonies for the 2002 and 2010 Olympics. MacInnis is the associate choreographer for the Broadway and West End productions of The Prom, Mean Girls, Something Rotten, Aladdin, and The Book of Mormon.
The titular mermaid, Ariel, will be hosted by Diana Huey. Huey, who makes her debut with Walnut, is the Helen Hayes Award winner for her portrayal of Kim in Miss Saigon (Alliance Theater) and the Gregory Award winner for playing Ariel in the nationwide tour productions of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In addition to her other theatrical credits including Rock of Ages (5th Avenue Theater) and Maybe Happy Ending (Alliance Theater), Huey is an advocate for diversity in the arts. Nut veteran Sean Thompson, who audiences may remember as Warner in Legally Blonde in 2019, will play Prince Eric, cape and sword. Thompson’s other WST credits include South Pacific, Wizard of Oz, and Gifts of the Magi. Ariel’s father and ruler of Atlantica, King Triton, will be played by Walnut newcomer Derrick Cobey, whose credits include Andy Wright’s role in The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway and the second Broadway cover of Kiss. Me Kate. Cobey is no stranger to the Philadelphia Theater, having performed at the Arden and the Philadelphia Theater Company. King Triton’s right crab and Ariel’s keeper Sebastian will be played by WST apprentice actress Dana Orange, who was last seen on the Walnut stage as a wise ass in Shrek. Other Orange credits include Sister Act (WST), To Kill a Mockingbird (Millbrook Playhouse) and In The Heights (Park Playhouse).
Nut favorite Rebecca Robbins returns for her 19th WST production as Evil Sea Witch Ursula. Robbins was last on the main Walnut stage as the owner of the Paulette salon in Legally Blonde. His Broadway credits include A Tale of Two Cities and The Phantom of the Opera. Ursula’s henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam, will be played by Adam Hoyak (Shrek) and Jesse Jones (Legally Blonde) respectively.
Actor Kevin Kulp, who was previously seen in Matilda in 2018, will return as Ariel’s fish friend Flounder. Scuttle, a seagull and “expert” on humans, will be played by Ellie Mooney, who was last on the main Walnut stage as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz in 2016. Chief Louis, the palace cook looking to make Sebastian a meal, will be played by Ben Dibble, a WST regular, whose pint-sized villain audiences will remember Lord Farquaad in Shrek. Actor Bill Van Horn, who last played Sir John Pontefract in A Woman of No Importance in 2019, is also back in the Walnut, to play Prince Eric’s servant Grimsby.
Returning to the Walnut to form an ensemble of sailors, mermaids and sea creatures are Rachel Beiswenger (The Wizard of Oz), Mark Donaldson (Shrek), BillyD Hart (Legally Blonde), Bonnie Kelly (Beehive) and Adam Mandala ( Shrek). The Walnut welcomes Xhenet Capani, Alexandra Frohlinger, Rachael Britton Hart, Caroline Kane, Jackson Siegel and Devon Sinclair as they make their debut on the WST Mainstage on the ensemble.
The returning young actors at The Walnut as part of The Little Mermaid children’s ensemble are Cecelia Kent (Shrek) from Lower Gwynedd, PA; Emma Scherz (Shrek) of Mount Laurel, Pennsylvania; Akiva Schostak (Shrek) from Haddonfield, NJ; and Charlotte Ward Taylor (Matilda) of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Amelia Carnahan of Philadelphia, PA will also be part of the children’s ensemble and debut on the main stage in Walnut; Madeline Garson of Wallingford, Pennsylvania; Garrett Heinerichs of the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Alexandria Holman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Zachary Huot from Bensalem, Pennsylvania; Declan MacDonald of Wayne, Pennsylvania; Olivia Bee Sposa of Cherry Hill, NJ; and Ryan Sullivan of Glenside, Pennsylvania.
Scenic designer Robert Andrew Kovach (Shrek, Young Frankenstein, Holiday Inn, Forum) returns to the Walnut to take audiences both under the sea and to navigate its surface. Kovach will be joined by lighting designer Charlie Morrison (Shrek, Young Frankenstein, Disney’s The Little Mermaid Nationwide Tour) and sound designer Ed Chapman (Shrek, Young Frankenstein, Holiday Inn, Forum). By giving the cast everything from fins, tentacles and wings to elegant dresses and crowns, costume designer Mary Folino (Beehive, Young Frankenstein, Matilda, Annie, Holiday Inn) will create the wardrobe for the cast. Folino is joined by hair and makeup designers Will Vicari and Krystal Balleza (Shrek) who will help bring these fantastic characters to life.