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REVIEW: Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch

Newcastle Theatre Royal 

Until Thursday 4 July 2024

A parody musical that began life at the Edinburgh Fringe has been revised, extended and given the big stage treatment. It keeps the lovely brashness that made it such a fresh hit in the first place. One for the broad minded adults who love a laugh, it is a real shame that this show only has two more shows left in the Newcastle run.

I will say this again - it is a show for adults - before I say that it can be viewed as a spin off from Disney's Little Mermaid. What about the characters of the sea that were too ugly to feature? What was their story? ...and poor Ursula, the sea witch. She got a lot of bad press in the original movie. Was she that bad?

Now is the time for Ursula to tell her side of the story.

Shawna Hamic may be known to UK audiences from Orange Is The New Black but as someone who has appeared on Broadway, she knows how to make an appearance and to star on the stage. Her Ursula is a fabulous character who is able to put a completely different spin on the sea witch. You quickly warmed to her character, helped by breaking the fourth wall with a knowing look. Add in a decent singing voice and you have the central core of a great show.

Ursula falls in love with Triton (Thomas Lowe) but, after the death of the sea cucumber Kirsty, Ursula is banished away. Matters then become complicated when Ariel (River Medway) enters the scene. You then have a range of characters performed by Allie Dart and Julian Capolei plus a great ensemble cast. They have a real energy about the performance that helps the 130 minute plus interval fly by.

This is a camp revisionist of a popular story directed with pace by Robyn Grant, who is - along with Daniel Foxx - responsible for the book. It is a love story, but it has a number of layers between the characters. What really lifts this tale are the songs. Following on from the trend set by our favourites Vulvarine and Tom and Bunny Save The World we have a set of memorable songs that help with both character development and exposition. The lyrics are important rather than just fluff. Ask The Girl is one such standout track. My companion says that they want to add the cast recording to their collection.

The show is funny and charming. A hard working cast keep the action flowing and the audience smiling. It works as a show and it is great to see this one grow from the first acorns we saw before the pandemic. True, it is camp. But the caring sentimentality is far more poignant.

We left with smiles on our faces. This is a "new" musical that is worth checking out.

(...and because it is the law when we write about these guys - please bring back Vulvarine, release a cast recording - especially the cat song!)

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Pamela Raith


Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 2 – Thursday 4 July 2024. Tickets can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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