Part of Her World: The 5th’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Brings the Magic of Disney’s Animated Classic

The under-the-sea classic dazzles with plenty of theatre magic and stand-out performances. The Little Mermaid performs at The 5th Avenue Theatre through 10/8.


The tale of The Little Mermaid could be downright terrifying. A family feud of Shakespearean proportions. A starry-eyed youngster tapped as unwitting pawn of vengeance. Her beautiful voice and freedom lost naively to an unwinnable bet. Silenced and caged forever.

Obviously, that tragic tale (first penned by Hans Christian Andersen) is not the angle Disney would pick for its enduring classic children’s film. And while the musical reaches into the sea depths, such a dark mood doesn’t much color the staging on now at The 5th Avenue Theatre, either. The 5th’s The Little Mermaid is full of comedy and imagination and light, with theatre magic sure to hook the attention of grown-ups and kids alike.

The cast of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Photo by Mark Kitaoka.

Casting and design are the champions of this one, and both are The 5th’s fortes.

Scenic design (Kenneth Foy), lighting (Charlie Morrison), and costume design (Amy Clark and Mark Koss) create a lush under-the-sea wonderland, reminiscent of the colorful animated film. Staging and aerial rigging, with bubbles bobbing by, give the effects of mermaids flittering and seagulls flying. Want to show your kids (or remind your peers) the heights of live theatre magic? Start with this one. It’s hard to imagine a better way to fill up The 5th’s massive stage.

Casting is similarly keen, as it has been under casting director Dedra D. Woods. Diana Huey returns to the title role from years back (which she performed both at The 5th and on tour), and dazzles with a charmingly naive, curious, and sparkly Ariel. (Huey faced plenty of backlash as an Asian American performer in the role; read about her aspirations and the tour here.) I was wary of seeing Shaunyce Omar consigned to another villain role, but she’s regal and royal, and an easy crowd favorite, as the treacherous queen Ursula. She’s flanked by delightfully shady cronies Flotsam and Jetsam (played by Cassi Q Kohl and Ethan Carpenter). Ariel’s wildlife friends get a gleeful and goofy staging from Keoni Dilay (Flounder), Kevin Smith Kirkwood (Sebastian), and John David Scott (Scuttle). Coleman Cummings is a princely Eric.

With a great cast and staging come great big numbers, beautifully performed: the carnival-esque “Under the Sea,” iconic film favorites “Part of Your World” and “Kiss the Girl,” woo-ey ballad “One Step Closer,” and a victoriously villainous “Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise).”

The result is plenty of ferocity and drama told with an irresistible light. It’s the sort of fairy tale we all could use right now.

‘Disney’s The Little Mermaid’ music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, book by Doug Wright. Directed by Glenn Casale; music directed by R.J. Tancioco. Choreographed by John MacInnis; flight sequences choreographed by Paul Rubin. See full cast and creative team here

Note: Diana Huey is scheduled to perform Ariel through 10/5. Caitlin Sarwono performs the title role 10/6-8. 

The Little Mermaid runs through 10/8 at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Downtown Seattle. Tickets ($59-$179) here. Accessibility notes: basement restrooms are gender-neutral and multi-stall; all other restrooms are gendered and multi-stall. Theatre and some common areas are wheelchair accessible. ASL interpreted performances on 10/1 and 10/7 (matinees); open-captioned performances on 10/1 and 10/7 (matinees) and 10/6 (evening); audio-described performance on 9/30 (matinee); sensory-friendly performance on 10/7 (matinee; this performance is also ASL interpreted and captioned). See notes on ticketing page for more information. Financial accessibility note: $30 rush tickets for most sections (same-day, in-person) offered for all performances when available.

Run time: 2 hours 30 minutes, with intermission.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of