So here is a fun fact that I’d like to share in this preview piece about “The Little Mermaid“… my wife’s name in Ariel! Does that make me Prince Eric? I guess not, but you can you just imagine the number of mermaid references she has had to endure over the years. She takes it all in stride of course and is a big fan of the story. We both chuckle when a child looks at her in wonder upon hearing her name, no doubt thoughts of a mythical mermaid princess swirling through their head. We are both very excited to see the story, based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson, play out live on stage next week when the touring production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” opens at DPAC next Tuesday, October 17th.
The plot of the stage production follows the Disney version carefully which is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia for some of the audience who grew up watching the movie back in the late 1980’s. Set in the magical Kingdom beneath the sea it tells the coming of age story of a determined mermaid named Ariel who longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above with Prince Eric, her one true love. With music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, featuring classics like such as “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl”, this is beautiful love story that the entire family can enjoy.
Probably the most popular character from the story, aside from Ariel of course, is Sebastian the crab, Ariel’s wing-man and father-like mentor. Melvin Abston has earned great reviews playing this role and it was an honor to speak with him last week by phone to learn a little more about what it is like to be in the show and play the worlds most famous crustacean.
When did you first realize that Acting would be your calling?
“I didn’t know growing up. As a kid the “acting bug” had not bitten me yet . I was more of an athlete than a performer. I did try out for a part in my school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and the drama teacher really wanted me to be in it, but performing in the play would have conflicted with my team schedule. I did some singing here and there but it wasn’t until later in life that I discovered my true passion for acting and theater. Now boom, 25 years later here I am!”
What is your favorite thing about playing Sebastian?
“It is very humbling to play such an iconic character. Some of the most memorable songs that people recognize come from him in the show and it is fun to see how his appeal spans generations. Even though Ariel is the star of the show I feel that in many ways Sebastian is the heart and acts as a conduit for the audience. He is a good guy, a spoiler and Ariel’s wing-man all wrapped up into one. Ultimately he is an earnest and loving character that puts himself in peril for loved ones. But at the end of the day he is a fun and loving character and he is a joy to play.”
What is your favorite song from the show?
“There are so many popular songs, but my favorite has to be ‘If Only’. It explores the idea of missed opportunities and the possibilities of life. It is a song everyone in the audience can relate to and it is beautifully sung as a ballad”
What do you want audiences to know about this production?
“This production is unlike anything you have seen before. The show is filled with many iconic moments from the movie, but there are new things too even if you are familiar with the movie. This production a combination of old and new, with all your iconic favorites but plenty of fresh songs too adding to the wonder and discovery of seeing the show. One thing I think you will notice is that the sets and colors and the overall feel of the stage really make you feel like you are experiencing life under the sea.”
What do you like to do with your off time. Are you looking forward to returning to Durham?
“Because eight shows a week can be physically taxing, and sleep is very important to let your body rejuvenate. I also like to relax watching cult classic films and great older TV shows. I am also into really good food and I know you have wonderful places to go there in Durham. I am already making my plans to go to my favorite biscuit place and get some excellent Carolina barbecue.”
“The Little Mermaid” has performances at DPAC Tuesday October 17th through Sunday, October 22nd. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-little-mermaid.