Imagine the challenges an actor would face if he no longer had the use of his voice. It is, after all, an integral part of creating a believable characterization. In the musical theater, few mute characters exist, and in most cases, it’s only a temporary situation. Think of King Sextimus in “Once Upon a Mattress” or the Duke in “Big River.”
Another musical theater character that is rendered temporarily silent is Princess Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” Based on Disney’s 1989 animated motion picture, which in turn was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid” will receive its Lyric Theatre debut this week.
It’s the story of a mermaid who glimpses life above the sea and falls in love with a handsome prince. She makes the sacrifice of giving up her beautiful voice in exchange for becoming human.
Amanda Lea LaVergne, who stars as the title character in Lyric Theatre’s production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” learned early in the rehearsal process that being unable to speak didn’t have to prevent her from creating a believable characterization.
“Actually, I was excited about shutting down my main capacity for communicating and discovering how to express myself,” LaVergne said during a rehearsal break. “By the end of the rehearsal, there was no need for actual words.
“When you see a play and you’re paying attention to the lines, sometime the physicality can get bogged down. So to be able to communicate and be physically funny or restrained is a very welcome challenge. There are so many things you can do without saying a word.”
Every Disney musical has an evil character, and “The Little Mermaid” features Ursula. Playing the devilish underwater creature is Emily Skinner, a New York actress who received a Tony nomination for her role as Daisy Hilton in the Broadway production of “Side Show.”
“Ursula is the villain you love to hate,” Skinner said. “And because she’s a little demented, there’s lots of fun fodder to be mined. I hope I can live up to chewing the scenery. With Ursula, I think that’s the goal.”
‘The Little Mermaid’