‘Mermaid’ will test waters here pre-Broadway

Talk about a big splash: The world premiere of The Little Mermaid, Disney's Broadway-bound stage musical of the Oscar-winning film, will open in Denver next summer.

The premiere, to be announced by Denver Center Attractions officials today, marks a major step forward in Denver's national reputation as a theatrical city.

Center Attractions has presented new work, such as I Love a Piano, but has never hosted a tryout for a Broadway-bound musical. (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, which premiered at Denver Center Theatre Company, did go on to Broadway, as did earlier shows.) The division of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts launched the national tour for The Lion King in 2001, but that show was already a hit.

Many eyes will be on Denver to see how Mermaid fares. Out-of- town tryouts, frequent in cities such as Chicago and Boston, typically draw critics and reporters from New York and around the nation.

The show has long been in development. Originally, the avant- garde director/choreographer Matthew Bourne was attached, with playwright David Ives writing the book. Both have since exited. Opera director Francesca Zambello, who began her career in the 1980s with Opera Colorado, will head the production.

The script writer couldn't be any hotter. Doug Wright won a Pulitzer for his play I Am My Own Wife (now at Curious Theatre Company) and his musical Grey Gardens moves from a critically acclaimed off-Broadway run to Broadway this fall.

The music will be supplied by Alan Menken, who will write new songs to add to those he did for the 1989 animated feature. Glenn Slater will contribute lyrics for the new songs, supplementing those by Howard Ashman, who died in 1991. The movie won two Academy Awards, for best score and best song (Kiss The Girl).

No casting or dates have yet been announced for the show, which will open in the summer of 2007 as part of the subscription season.

The Little Mermaid

When and where: Summer 2007, Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Why it matters: Denver audiences will be the first to see the new Disney musical before it moves to Broadway. It's also the first Denver Center Attractions show to play the Ellie.

The story: The play, based on the 1989 movie that was based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, tells of a mermaid princess who makes a dangerous bargain to live life as a human above the sea.

Tickets: Denver Center Attractions will announce today that the show is part of its 2007 subscription package, meaning subscribers get first crack at tickets. 303-893-4100.

bornsteinl@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5101



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