There are few things as magical as the sound of children laughing. Except maybe mermaids. As Ariel in the FSCJ Broadway Series production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Diana Huey experiences the thrill of both night after night.
“I can hear the children and the adults just cackling from the stage. That’s my favorite thing about getting to do something like this because every night without fail, you can hear the kids howling,” says Huey. “I see little girls in their mermaid tails and their costumes and it’s the cutest thing ever. Ariel is such an iconic character that I loved at such a young age so it’s a super fun thing getting to play her as an adult.”
Disney’s The Little Mermaid is staged March 21-26 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Family night preshow activities including games, face painting, coloring stations, crafts, photo ops and a special guest appearance will be held from 6:30-7:30 pm and at intermission (www.artistseriesjax.com).
The show features the beloved music from the original film score. “It’s really fun to get to do “A Part of Your World” because that’s the song that I remember singing when I was a kid,” says Huey. “But I think my favorite moment is the quartet that was written for Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian and King Triton. It’s just super simple, broken down with beautiful music and one of the most honest songs where they’re all kind of having their internal moments of what they’re going through.”
Huey says the script tackles socially relevant issues like self-esteem and struggling to find one’s place in the world – sending an optimistic, age appropriate message to young, impressionable audiences to find their joy. The material is handled in a manner that is easy for children to digest while still appealing to audiences of all ages.
“They did a great job making the script a bit deeper and making the character a little deeper as opposed to her just thinking ‘this stuff is really cool and I’m really interested in human stuff’. She actually feels like she doesn’t belong under the sea so it’s more of a story of ‘I’m going to try and figure out who I am and what makes me happy’. It’s more real in that it’s not just a dinglehopper.”
Besides charming an auditorium full of kids as a willfully determined mermaid with a penchant for shiny things, Huey says one of the most gratifying moments of her Little Mermaid experience is getting positive feedback from parents and grandparents.
“It isn’t just a kid’s show. It’s relatable to everyone whether it’s something that they haven’t experienced yet, like the little kids, hopefully they can learn something from it, or the adults that remember watching it can look back to when they were figuring that all out for themselves.”
“They say I didn’t really feel like coming but I brought my kids or my grandkids and I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it,” she says. “It isn’t just a kid’s show. It’s relatable to everyone whether it’s something that they haven’t experienced yet, like the little kids, hopefully they can learn something from it, or the adults that remember watching it can look back to when they were figuring that all out for themselves.”
After a performance, Huey says she is often greeted by her young fans. Most of them are excited to see her but there are a few who are not quite sure what to make of her in person – and sans tail. “I usually see them when I’m out of costume so it’s not the same character that they just saw on stage,” she says. “Their parents are like ‘look, it’s Ariel’ and the kids are like ‘I don’t know about that. She’s wearing tennis shoes’.”