‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid’ sets course for Fox Theatre Jan. 12-15

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” starring Diana Huey as Ariel, starts at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12 and will run until Jan. 15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

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“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” starring Diana Huey as Ariel, starts at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12 and will run until Jan. 15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

Often credited with kicking off the Disney Renaissance throughout the 1990s, "The Little Mermaid" became a box office splash back in 1989.

Audiences can relive the tale of the quirky mermaid Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian the crab and more when "Disney's The Little Mermaid" arrives at the Fox Theatre from Jan. 12-15.

Director Glenn Casale, known for directing the 1999 Tony Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning “Peter Pan,” spoke about the difficulties adapting the animated Disney classic to a live-action adventure.

“The biggest difficulty was to make sure that the story was clear and to keep the action going,” he said. “It is an adventure, and I really worked hard at making it a big adventure for the whole evening.”

The play was also adapted to tweak and add various other layers of character motivation and development to the main cast, including the titular mermaid.

“We worked a lot on the journey of Ariel to make sure that she was a woman — that it wasn’t all about finding a prince,” Casale said.

Diana Huey, the actress portraying Ariel, further explained the expansion of Ariel’s motivations — namely her longing to fit in and find her place.

“In the movie, you get that she has an obsession with all of the human stuff, but that’s kind of the extent of it. Then she falls in love with the prince,” she said. “In the show, they really focus on the fact that she feels like she doesn’t fit in under the sea or with her family — she’s different from everybody else and can’t figure out why that is.”

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“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Matthew Kacergis as Prince Eric, will run at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12-15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Matthew Kacergis as Prince Eric, will run at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12-15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

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“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Matthew Kacergis as Prince Eric, will run at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12-15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

On top of the changes to Ariel, Prince Eric, portrayed by Marietta native Matthew Kacergis, has an expanded role in the play, too.

“Prince Eric doesn’t say a whole lot in the Disney film, so when Doug Wright wrote the book for the musical, he — thankfully for me, selfishly (laughs) — gave Prince Eric a little more of a story arc,” Kacergis said.

He added that Prince Eric will get two new original songs, including a number called “One Step Closer,” which he said was one of his favorite moments in the play.

He also said the play delves deeper into the character of Prince Eric, fleshing him out more as a character instead of being a one-note love interest for Ariel.

“I would say the biggest difference is you get a little more of a look inside his head, and you get to see a vulnerability that, in my recollection, does not really exist in the animated film, which is one of the things that make it more interesting to me,” he said. “I love characters that are vulnerable.”

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“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Jennifer Allen as Ursula, starts at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12 and will run until Jan. 15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Jennifer Allen as Ursula, starts at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12 and will run until Jan. 15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

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“Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” with Jennifer Allen as Ursula, starts at the Fox Theatre on Jan. 12 and will run until Jan. 15. CONTRIBUTED BY MARK & TRACY PHOTOGRAPHY

New musical numbers, composed by Oscar-winning Disney composer Alan Menken, aren’t limited to just Prince Eric though.

“We took away a song of Ursula’s, and she has a new song called ‘Daddy’s Little Angel,’” Casale said.

There are multiple aesthetic adaptions as well. The cast will have segments where they will fly through the air to simulate swimming underwater, which Huey described as one of her favorite parts of the show.

Huey herself is also a departure from the norm as she is an Asian-American playing the role of a red-haired, white mermaid. This sparked a small amount of controversy on Facebook over her casting, according to The Seattle Times.

“I didn’t set out to do this with some idea of like, ‘You should give me a chance because I’m ethnic and that’ll be such a statement,’” Huey said. “I was just an actor going out for a job that I got called in for.”

The 5th Avenue Theatre has recently built a reputation for colorblind casting, as Rodgers & Hammerstein's 2011 production of "Cinderella" featured Jennifer Paz, who is Filipina, as the aforementioned princess. This trend has also been seen nationally, such as in the Broadway smash "Hamilton."

“People are telling me, ‘Oh, the little Asian girl that was at the show had stars in her eyes looking at you as the princess,’” Huey said. “It’s been a really interesting thing to be this voice for people I never intended to be.”

EVENT PREVIEW

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid”

Jan. 12-15. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12; 8 p.m. Jan. 13; 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 14; 1 p.m. Jan. 15. $33.50-$128.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, http://foxtheatre.org.