There are two sides to every story, and Unfortunate is to The Little Mermaid what Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz. Ursula is the Disney villain we’d most want to see given their own moment in the spotlight, and this new musical – which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 but has now evolved into a full production – doesn’t disappoint. The narrative pretty much stands on its own feet, although a reasonable knowledge of The Little Mermaid is required to get the most out of this show, especially the music, which offers a number of entertaining parodies of the original songs.
This tongue-in-cheek show pulls no punches – nothing is off the table, even poking some fun in Disney’s direction. A song performed by a collection of unconventional-looking sea creatures titled ‘We Didn’t Make It To Disney’, which gently mocks the film giant’s erasure of unattractive characters, is a highlight. It’s also a show with a wickedly subversive sense of humour and some delightfully colourful language – a far cry from the original source material.
The text is smart and, at times, very funny indeed – some of the punchlines we saw coming, but a fair number caught us off guard. It also thoughtfully considers a range of contemporary issues – shots are fired (in a good-humoured manner) at toxic masculinity; we briefly dabble in political leanings; the issue of consent is raised; characters are discriminated against based on how they look and where they come from. On the whole it’s mostly lighthearted entertainment, but there are a handful of more thought-provoking scenes.
We did spot a number of technical issues on the night, however. We’re aware the show has only just opened and hopefully these can be fixed over the course of the run, but we did clock a couple of puppet mishaps and some wardrobe malfunctions. Most frustratingly there were multiple microphone issues – this was largely fixed in the second act, but we were aware we missed a number of punchlines in the first act simply by not being able to hear them, which was disappointing.
We’re hoping these are issues that can be fixed rapidly, because those aside, Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is an entertaining show and a really great fun night out. There are numerous laugh-out-loud funny punchlines and the original songs are a joy. It’s only on for a limited run, but if you can find time for this Disney-inspired delight this summer, we’d highly recommend it.
GAY TIMES gives Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch – 4/5
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