Alison Woods wanted to be Ariel since she saw the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid” as a child.
With her theater career only in its infancy, she was given the opportunity to audition for the role when a Broadway musical version came out in 2008. She didn’t get the role that time, but the casting director liked her and told her to try out again in a few months. Sadly, she never got the chance, as the show closed in 2009, completing a 685-show run.
But now, she will get the chance to take on her dream role as the Tony Award-nominated musical comes to the Crescent City for this year’s 2015-16 Broadway in New Orleans season at the Saenger Theatre on Sept. 15-20.
“As far as the role goes,” Woods said, “I guess my research for Ariel started when I was little and first saw the movie and fell in love with it. I always wanted to be Ariel. I loved the music, I loved the personality — I just loved everything about her. I’m a redhead and she kind of made redheads cool, so I just found her really captivating.”
Woods trained extensively with a vocal coach on voice technique and strength training to prepare for the role. She also started swimming religiously, which would come to aid her in this second reimagining completed by director Glenn Casale and set designer Bob Crowley.
While the musical inhabits the world set up in the original Disney film, it also delves deeper into the characters and their relationships. Expect more bang for your buck as far as the story is concerned.
“It has everything that the movie has, only more,” Woods said. “It delves deeper than the movie does as far as the relationships: the father-daughter relationship, the idea of prejudice between the mermaids and the humans and that tension that Ariel’s father has brought her up thinking that humans are evil.”
This musical doesn’t stick only to the original songbook either. Instead, it’s all the songs many might remember from the 1989 film, as well as many more additional numbers from the original Academy Award-winning composer.
“There’s also a lot more music,” Woods said. “Some of the best music in the show is new. Alan Menkin wrote it for the show, and he also wrote the original music. The music is beautiful.”
The lyrics are by Howard Ashman and Glen Staler; Doug Wright wrote the book.
In the original Broadway adaptation, the director had the actors wear Heelys or roller shoes to skate or “swim” across the stage, but this idea was scrapped when Casale took over for the 2012 Dutch adaptation.
Casale is still directing today, and instead of the Heelys, he’s added flight to simulate swimming as well as an additional song. All the ideas were given Disney Theatrical’s stamp of approval.
“The biggest thing I think people are going to be wowed by is the flying,” Woods said. “We actually swim through the air, and there’s a spectacle of it. It’s really magical, so it’s definitely something that people will be taken aback by and really enjoy — kids especially.
“There’s definitely an element of magic on stage that this particular production has added to it with our director Glenn Casale and everybody has worked on this version of it, so it’s even different than the Broadway version.”
Though Woods and the rest of the production are only here for a few days before they have to move on, she is excited to come to New Orleans, a city she’s never visited before.
“I’m really looking forward to the authentic New Orleans food and the music and all of that. I’m very excited and sad we’ll only be there for a few days, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.”