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Disney's Little Mermaid the Musical Boasts Amazing Technical Effects and Fleshed Out Characters

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Fresh from the technical wonders of War Horse, Houston theater audiences will have another chance to marvel at a world being created on stage with the musical Disney's The Little Mermaid.

"The flying [swimming] is very intricate, very beautiful. I does it looks very real and natural - not like you're looking at a big gimmick," says Eric Kunze (on Broadway: Les Miserable, Miss Saigon) who plays, appropriately enough, Prince Eric, the love interest of Princess Ariel, the mermaid.

Just as in the 1989 animated movie, in this touring production hosted by Theatre Under the Stars Ariel wants to leave the sea and stand up on two legs on dry land. Her father Triton, King of the Sea, isn't happy with his daughter's fascination with all things human. In the stage version, characters have been fleshed out a bit more, Kunze says.

"He [Prince Eric] is probably a little bit more unsettled about where he is in his life and really not feeling like he's fitting in to the whole hierarchy of being a royal. And also Ariel, the little mermaid, that's what they have in common - they both are sort off out of place and not comfortable in their own skins."

Otherwise Eric is still the same. "I still wear the boots; I still wear the big puffy shirt," Kunze says. Kids are glued to the two-act, two hour with intermission show, he says, while adults can savor the music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

Much of the audience are parents who saw the movie version when they were kids, Kunze says. "They are reliving that and bringing their own kids to it."

And the father-daughter dynamic is a powerful one, Kunze promises. "We've seen grown men cry!" Oh and don't worry; Sebastian, Ariel's crabby sidekick and Ursula, the evil sea witch will be there as well.

Disney's The Little Mermaid runs June 13-29 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Hobby Center, 615 Texas Avenue. For information call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $24-$121.

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