You know the drill. The replacement and tour casts look and perform as much like the original cast as possible. If you need a replacement Beast, you always look to the guys who played Javert. If you need Javert, you look to the guys who played the Beast. If you need a Belle, she needs to look and sound a certain way unless you cast Toni Braxton. If you need a star name, you cast whoever is least likely to be an embarrassment but still be big enough to get butts in seats.
But last week, we were given the exciting news—Faith Prince as Ursula!
It’s not remarkable that Disney cast Faith Prince. They’ve used big Broadway names many times before—Andrea McArdle, Idina Menzel, Norm Lewis, to name a few. What’s remarkable is that they went in the entire opposite direction of the original casting. Sherie Rene Scott is a pop powerhouse, sexy and young, and they should have cast a Kelly Fournier or a Sara Gettelfinger. Instead, we get the very versatile and cute Faith Prince.
Faith Prince is perfect casting, utterly perfect. She can do character roles with great zest, but she’s also proven her ability to handle more subtle roles, earning strong reviews in The King and I and James Joyce’s The Dead. Her Ursula will be entirely different from Sherie Rene Scott’s—I don’t know how it could be anything except different—but it will also be utterly satisfying and genius in her own way.
Faith Prince is genius casting in anything, but as Ursula, it’s unexpected genius. Theatre fans will be willing to go a second time just to see her interpretation of the role, and general audiences will walk away having witnessed a great performance.
Personally, when I heard about the original cast members trickling away, it made The Little Mermaid less of a draw if I make it to NYC this summer. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the less-known performers out there, but it’s extraordinarily nice to over-pay to see someone you love or have wanted to see perform for a long time. Faith Prince as Ursula is exciting.
Way to go, Disney! You turned stunt casting into stunning casting.
the Broadway Mouth
February 25, 2009