When Danish author Hans Christian Andersen penned The Little Mermaid in 1937, little did he realise that his epic fairy tale would continue to entertain and engage kids and adults alike for centuries. The story of a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity to gain a human soul and the love of a human prince has been presented in various avatars including an opera, a Japanese manga, an animated TV series, anime versions and a Walt Disney film, over the years.
Mumbaiites can now watch the fairy tale as a musical. Adapted and directed by Vishal Asrani and Jiji Simon Subi, who have earlier helmed The Magic of Christmas and the super hit, Snow White and the 7 dwarfs, Marina the Little Mermaid features original songs and music by the duo. Subi says, “After our initial musicals, we wanted to push the envelope in terms of story telling, production and set design. So we opted for The Little Mermaid as the whole challenge lay in creating the marine world on stage.
Also, since we are catering to the kids, we thought it was an ideal story as it had a perfect mix of drama, romance, comedy, suspense and how the good overcomes the evil. In the original, the mermaid can’t unite with the prince, but we have changed that as we wanted kids to leave on a positive note.” After penning the script, the duo handpicked the cast comprising 21 members, including eight children following auditions. They penned original songs and lyrics as they couldn’t use the music from the 1984 Walt Disney film due to copyright issues. While Vishal composed the music, Subi worked on the choreography.
However, in order to give viewers a visual extravaganza, the duo realised that they had to create the underwater world as realistically as possible. Subi elaborates, “We laid a lot of emphasis on costumes and sets. We had to ensure that the costumes were designed in such a way that the actors could move on stage easily despite the space constraints. So we collaborated with designers from Thailand as well as Mumbai-based stylists to create the outfits. Also, we created the ripple effect of water through lights and a pale blue background.”
Subi admits that working on the musical for over two and a half months has been a learning experience. “When we set out, we wanted it to be a grand affair but now it has become much bigger. The whole idea was to make the musical hugely entertaining by giving out a positive message about the importance of family, without sounding didactic,” he signs off.