(Warning :- this is NOT a children’s show, it is firmly and deliciously an Adult Parody with vulgar, blue jokes and imagery – leave the kids at home with a babysitter!)
I have always found the Disney princess’ lacking personality and in a word… boring! Now, the Villians, that’s a different kettle of fish and none did I identify with more than Ursula from Hans Christian Anderson’s and later Disney’s – The Little Mermaid. A strong, larger than life female with sass, attitude and in three words… big, brash and bold! Ursula is unconventional and superbly bucks the norm with an independent style and flair that any young woman would do well to have in their armour. So, why must she be a baddie because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical images of what a women should look like and be?? How about… Why be a sheep when you can be a Squid!!!
So, imagine my delight when the dirty Disney musical parody – Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch undulated onto the stage at the Sheffield Lyceum. At last the roles are reversed and we see the other side of the story – Ursula takes centre stage and we will never see Ariel in the same light again after this very adult production! As the protagonist, Ursula takes us back 20 years and we learn she isn’t innately evil, just misunderstood under the waves where frivolity takes precedence over important far reaching issues. The story has a strong undercurrent of social and environmental issues, perception and acceptance, all caught up in outlandish comedy and risqué raunch, resulting in a tidal wave of a production that swallows the whole audience with its bawdy bait.
We learn of the thwarted relationship between Triton and Ursula and the false accusation of murder that is pinned on Ursula by Triton’s father. Banished from Atlantica and sent to live in the Deep Waters, Ursula never forgets or forgives. Fast forward 20 years and Trition needs help with his airhead daughter Ariel, whose only interest in life is to go on land, find a human male and some ‘dick’! Stand erect Jamie Mawson as the hilariously ‘well hung’ and superficial Eric. Very much NOT how Disney portrayed the pair!
The witty book and lyrics are co-written by Daniel Foxx and Robyn Grant and it is the latter who takes on the title role with the sass, blatant sexuality and self-assurance of a woman in control and at the top of her game. Grant sucks us in on each tentacle as she bares all in this ‘tell-all tale of sex, sorcery and suckers!’ Joining Grant on stage are just five actors who take multiple role play to another level! They command puppets of sea creatures – Ursula’s henchmen/friends Flotsam and Jetsam, life size sharks and shaggy dogs to name a few as well as their main character roles. The costume changes are fast and furious, all adding to the underwater spell created on stage.
George Witty is superb as Triton with a voice to mesmerise, his ballad ‘To Be King’ is sublimely good. Miracle Chance as the ‘Towie like’, ‘dick’ lusting Ariel has facial expressions and a physicality that brings the Disney film’s animation to life in a real slapstick style to much hilarity! Jack Gray is glorious as Scuttle and opens the show with a very catchy sea shanty song. My absolute favourite performer has to be the supremely talented Allie Dart as Sebastian- the Irish Crab; and Vanessa the sex crazy creation of Ursula’s altered ego. Dart’s characterisations are so uniquely different it is difficult to believe it is the same actress!
The performers are joined on stage by a three-piece band of keyboard, percussion and brass. With the music, arrangements and orchestrations by Tim Gilvin and in true musical theatre style, these move the plot onwards with wit, fun and noteworthy performances. The set by Abby Clarke is highly sequinned and puts us firmly under the sea. Note:- Watch out for Ursula’s tentacles that have a life of their own and are hypnotic!
To sum up this immersive show, the audience are left ‘reeling’ with its deep sea blueness, a lot of adult humour, laugh out loud moments, filthy jokes and an original score firmly parodying the well-known Disney songs. Be prepared to have your childhood dreams well and truly ‘battered’ in this wild, wet water rapid of a ride…! This new Musical parody has’ caught me hook line and sinker’, do not miss the boat, see it to believe it!
Reviewer: Tracey Bell
Reviewed: 5th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★