Alison Woods stars as Ariel
Alison Woods stars as Ariel
Photo courtesy Theatre Under the Stars

The Little Mermaid Returns to Houston's Hobby Theater Center

When she was five years old, Alison Woods saw the Disney movie The Little Mermaid and fell in love. Whenever she went swimming she would pretend to be Ariel. She liked that they both were red heads. She loved the songs by Alan Menken.

About five years ago she auditioned for the part on Broadway. But producers wanted her to strengthen her voice a bit – at that time she'd had no formal training – and asked her to try again in a few months.

She got a voice coach and practiced her swimming and singing week after week. But just as she was about to go back for an audition, the show closed on Broadway before she could show producers how much better she'd gotten.

However, this month Woods is finally getting her dream role when Theatre Under the Stars brings on an encore version of Disney's The Little Mermaid for five performances only.

“She's really endearing. She's strong. She knows what she wants; she believes in it,” says Woods of her character. “The show is a lot about prejudice. There's the humans and there's the mermaids and Ariel has been brought up to think humans are terrible people — they hunt mermaids and they eat fish. But she doesn't buy into it. And she doesn't accept when her father or Sebastian tells her they're [humans] trouble.”

In Ariel's love for and determination to be with Prince Eric, Woods sees a role model of sorts. “When I was growing up there weren't a ton of females, strong women or girls in movies. She's also fun and spunky.”

The production isn't just for kids, Woods says. “The relationships are really special especially the father-daughter relationship. That's the heart of it really, this daughter torn between her heart and her family. The way we're doing it, it's much deeper than the movie.”

Menken has written new music for the show that wasn't in the movie – expanded versions of some of the background music in the movie, she says. And then there's the much talked about special effects. “We actually fly through the air and swim on stage. It's pretty spectacular. It's magical.”

Performances are scheduled for September 10-13 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information visit tuts.com or call 713- 558-8887. $45.75 – 138.50.

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