It isn’t every woman who gets to live out her childhood dreams, but Steph Molloy is doing just that as she imagines living in a world under the sea.
Molloy will portray Ariel in Musical Theatre Production (MTP)’s upcoming presentation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, running Feb. 17-26 at the McManus Theatre.
She might not actually get to try on a mermaid tail, and the stage will be ocean-free, but Molloy is excited to bring the undersea world to life.
“I feel like I am playing a character that is iconic to girls my age, to all girls. I still have one to three minutes everyday where I have to pinch myself, am I really doing this,” she said. “As exciting as it is to be this Disney princess, I get to go out there and represent a character who is strong and brave and intelligent. She is ambitious and stubborn; I’m a lot like her, I think.”
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fable and the classic Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid, features music from the Oscar-winning team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, including Kiss the Girl, Part of Your World and Under the Sea, as well as new songs written for the Broadway production.
MTP’s production features 26 singers and dancers of all ages, from students to retirees.
For director Andrew Rethazi-Recchia, the opportunity to bring The Little Mermaid to London was enticing as it marks the first time an adult company has taken on the production.
Rethazi-Recchia explains the central message of the story has shifted from the movie to the original production to this licensed version.
This version focuses on the family dynamic, the father/daughter dynamic, more than it did before. But also, there’s a focus on Ariel and her sense of not belonging, trying to search for the place where she belongs in the world.
“The romance, which took centre stage in the film has been delegated to the backdrop against where this story is played out,” he said. “In the relevance to today, that the only man in her life has to learn the lesson of letting her be, letting her go, I think the audience will understand that message.”
Molloy certainly understands it. As much as she enjoys the classic Disney story, the actress said she’s excited to focus more on Ariel’s struggles, her journey before she even meets the prince.
Her journey in the show, she explains, is becoming who she truly is meant to be as opposed to the movie, which is more prince and princess.
“In the musical it is more about becoming her true self. She has to prove to others that it is OK to want something else; that it is OK to not fit into a mould. I think that amounts to bigger themes of acceptance and equality,” Molloy said. “I think that’s’ always been important to me and is what I bring to this production — along with the happily ever after, which I’m also a fan of.”
In portraying the iconic mermaid, Molloy isn’t wearing a tail so much as “a sparkly dress.”
And while clearly not taking place underwater, she explains it has been difficult learning how to portray that world — which Rethazi-Recchia has applauded the entire cast for embracing.
Of course, it isn’t all about the acting.
“We’re doing a lot with technical aspects; we’re doing a lot with lighting. There’s the physical movement of the cast, but there is also the fact everyone has legs and we have to disguise that because they’re all supposed to be fish,” he said. “The McManus has such a beautiful vertical element to the space, so to be able to use that with colour and light and some creatures. We definitely have those.”