Dozens of little girls in holiday dresses will tug their parents into White Plains PAC starting this weekend, keen to see Ariel in the New York regional premiere of “The Little Mermaid,” which runs through Jan. 4.
They’ll come to hear “Part of Your World” and the Oscar-winning “Under the Sea,” and giggle at Flounder and Sebastian, Ariel’s buddies. They may sigh at Prince Eric.
They’ll cringe at the villain of the piece, the wicked, tentacled sea witch Ursula, but they may not realize that she is being played by a man: Larchmont native John Treacy Egan — a Broadway veteran of “Jekyll & Hyde” to “Bye Bye, Birdie” to “The Producers.”
Egan was in the Opening Night cast of “The Little Mermaid” on Broadway, playing the cleaver-wielding Chef Louis who wants to cook a certain crustacean. This time, though, Egan is filling the considerable shoes of Sherie Rene Scott who created the role on Broadway, standing on the shoulders of Pat Carroll, the voice of Ursula in the 1989 original Disney film.
The movie revived Disney animation and won two Oscars for Westchester’s Alan Menken, for best original score and best original song.
So just how did Egan get to White Plains? An audition and a callback and a decision by director Jeremy Quinn that, yes, a man could play the part.
Egan had worked with Westchester musical wunderkind Stephen Ferri (WPPAC’s musical director) and knew Quinn socially, and he knew the part, having heard it hundreds of time.
In fact, Egan had been considered to understudy the role when it was on Broadway, where it ran for nearly 700 performances, starting in 2008.
“Very early in the run, Heidi Blickenstaff was the understudy to Sherie and then she left to do ‘[title of show],” Egan said. “They said ‘Why don’t we think of you doing it?’ and then it came down to costume and expense. I was much bigger than the girls and a new costume would be expensive. And they weren’t sure Disney would go for a man playing her because they saw Ursula as a failed princess.'”
Still, Egan recalls rumors about Gary Beach (who famously played a drag-queen director Roger DeBris in “The Producers,” a role Egan would go on to play) and Harvey Fierstein “bombarding (Disney Theatricals chief) Tom Schumacher to do it. But Sherie had the part and she was the first person cast.”
Fast forward to 2011 and Paul Vogt was cast as Ursula in the St. Louis Muny production. Fast forward to 2014 and Egan says it still takes a leap of faith to make that call to cast a man in a woman’s role.
“I think it’s a little tricky,” he said. “You think it’s a great idea and then you think ‘Ummm. Is this going to be OK? Are people going to go with it?’ And Jeremy was brave enough to say ‘Let’s go with it. I think it’ll be fun.'”
What is is like to don the tentacles?
“Everybody wants to be a Disney villain. And Ursula is one of the Top 3 Disney villains of all time.”
In fact, she is No. 1 on Eonline’s list of Top Disney Villains, edging out Cruella de Vil in “101 Dalmatians.”
Egan’s tenor voice — featured beautifully in “Bye Bye, Birdie” on Broadway — will be put to work on “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” And there’s a new song called “Daddy’s Little Angel.”
“In it, she sings about killing off all her sisters so she can be heir to the throne,” Egan said.
Not a nice girl, that Ursula.
Even when she’s played by a guy.
If you go: “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” runs through Jan. 4. Performances: Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 20, 27 and Jan. 3 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 21, 27, 28 and Jan. 2, 3, 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $55.
Special: WPPAC is offering “Family Four Packs” at select performances — Dec. 19 at 8, Dec. 20 at 7, Dec. 29 at 7 and Dec. 30 at 7 — pay $150 for two adults and two students, pay $150. That’s $30 off the regular price. You have to call the box office (11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday) for these seats: 914-328-1600.
The cast: Grant Albright (Flounder), Chelsey Lynn Alfredo (Aquata), Joseph C. Bellino (King Triton), Mario Castro (Male Ensemble), Philip J. Cutrone (Grimsby), Neil Dingow (Jetsam), Jessica Dorcey (Adella), Alvaro Francisco (Flotsam), Andrew Hendrick (Chef Louis), Tyler Henson (Male Ensemble), Rodney Ingram (Prince Eric), Tony Johnson (Male Ensemble), Kyshawn Lane (Male Ensemble), Gerard Lanzerotti (Male Ensemble), Andrew Lent (Flounder), Triona O’Callaghan (Andrina), DJ Petrosino (Scuttle), Beth Stafford Laird (Ariel), Tiffany Stoker (Attina), Cartreze Tucker (Sebastian), Shaina Vencel (Arista), Lauren M. Wagner (Allana), J’royce D. Walton (Male Ensemble) and John Treacy Egan (Ursula).
Photos. Top, by Kathleen Davisson, John Treacy Egan, center, plays Ursula the sea witch in the New York regional premiere of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at White Plains PAC through Jan. 4. Here, he’s flanked by Flotsam, left, (Alvaro Francisco) and Jetsam (Neil Dingow).
Second photo, by Kathleen Davisson, Beth Stafford Laird plays Ariel.
Third photo, by Stephen Ferri, Egan gets into character, with the help of costume and makeup.
Bottom photo, by Kathleen Davisson, Beth Stafford Laird, as Ariel, gets to know Rodney Ingram, as Prince Eric.