To Sarah Kelly, award-winning Company Theatre actress, Plymouth State University student, and ardent fan of anything Disney, becoming a Disney princess is another dream come true. Sarah spent last summer on the Company Theatre stage as sunny Elle Woods in the frothy musical, Legally Blonde the Musical, calling it the best summer of her life. She spends this summer under the sea as Disney Princess Ariel in Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from July 28 to August 20 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts. Whether portraying California fashionista turned Harvard law student or a love struck, fish out of water fork enthusiast, what Sarah shares with all of them is her ceaseless optimism.
Sarah Kelly talks about her returning to the Company Theatre, her new sidekicks, future plans, and her unconventional audition. Click here for further information and for tickets to Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Sleepless Critic: You seem to fit right into your role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid just a smoothly as you did as Elle in Company Theatre’s Legally Blonde last summer, a role you won an award for. What it was like to win for your first lead role?
Sarah Kelly: Whenever I talk about being a part of Legally Blonde with Company Theatre, I always say it was the gift that kept on giving. It gave me the opportunity to experience leading a show as Elle Woods, work with some of the most incredible and genuine people I’ve ever met, and yes, so blessed to receive ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ from Broadway World Boston. Receiving this award was an absolute cherry on top of the best summer of my life because I didn’t expect to be nominated at all. To be considered was prize enough and winning is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. That official validation meant so much to me.
SC: What interested you in returning to the Company Theatre as Ariel this summer?
SK: Last year in our interview for Legally Blonde, I talked about how Company Theatre’s family vibe and atmosphere immediately stole my heart. I saw a couple of different shows that were put up this past school year. When I returned, I was welcomed back with open arms and felt so at home again. Company Theatre is so much fun and I treasure each day. When I heard they were doing The Little Mermaid, I had to audition because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies and I adore Alan Menken’s work.
SC: How was the audition process for Ariel different from last year’s and how did you prepare?
SK: My audition was extremely different for this role because I did a video audition as opposed to last year where I attended the actual audition at Company Theatre. Unfortunately, I was away at school and auditions for Plymouth State University’s fall season were the exact same days as The Little Mermaid’s auditions and callbacks. It’s easier to show your truest colors at an “in person” audition. Showing what you have as a human being that will make that character you’re trying for special and real is the most important part of an audition. However, I did my best, memorized the sides that were sent to me, and the song I was asked to sing for my callback. I guess it really paid off.
SC: It sure did. Rather than Bruiser from Legally Blonde, you now have a couple of new sidekicks in Flounder and Sebastian. Please tell me what it is like to work on a Disney musical. Is this your first one? The Company Theatre recently completed The Lion King Jr earlier this year.
SK: Yes, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see their production of The Lion King Jr, but I heard wonderful things and saw some of the gorgeous costumes. Aside from playing Kaa the Snake in The Jungle Book Jr in fourth grade, this is my first Disney show and I am living for it. I grew up purely on Disney movies and music, so to be a part of this kind of process and play a Disney princess is a dream come true. The show is so bright, alive, and magical and the direction this specific production is going does the show itself absolute justice.
SC: I’m sure it must feel a little different to work with a cast who are playing animated characters and creatures. Such a beautiful set!
SK: Yes, we have some of the most passionate humans working on this show. The ever so dedicated James Valentin works extremely hard alongside our own personal superman, Ryan Barrow, who is also known as the hot UPS guy from Legally Blonde last summer. They go above and beyond creating, building, and painting sets. Ryan is one of the many Disney fan girls in our little family and literally will not sleep until everything is perfect. So many talented hands are helping to interpret the movie’s magic and that magic is right onstage. It’s so beautiful. I don’t know how they do it because these two guys are also a part of the cast. I can’t forget the spectacular Bri Plummer, who brings her unique costume designs to life perfectly.
Our absolutely brilliant choreographer, Sally Forrest, has such an incredible vision for this show that people need to see to really understand. She wants the audience to believe they are watching the original Disney movie and trains us to think and be animated characters, which is a lot of fun. The extremely specific motivation and movement direction she gives creates this beautiful and nostalgic picture both children and parents are going to be mesmerized by.
SC: Have there been any surprises in portraying Ariel? Unexpected challenges? It’s such a fun role.
SK: Ariel is so much fun to portray. I don’t support all of her life choices considering she gives up her gift of a voice for a legs and a man, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a blast to play on stage. She’s sweet, spunky, lovely, and lively. A challenge that I knew I was bound to run into with her is letting Elle from Legally Blonde pop in and out. With Elle, I had much more liberty in character choices and playing up my ‘Sarah-isms.’ Ariel is such an iconic animated figure, not to mention princess, so I really wanted to bring her to life in an organic way while staying true to the original cartoon.
SC: You’ll be a part of the Company Theatre fundraiser, Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration on Saturday, August 5 in full Disney princess mode. I’m sure that will be exciting for you.
SK: I’m very excited to be a part of the Princess Celebration! I love working with kids as a day job. Even when I was in the Hingham Parade on July 4, seeing those beautiful little faces looking up at me like I was an actual Disney princess, made me want it to last forever. I look forward to creating some real magic for the kids right here in Norwell on August 5.
SC: What are your future plans? Do you have new acting projects in the works after this?
SK: My university is putting on Merrily We Roll Along this fall and I was cast as ‘Gussie.’ I’m looking forward to it. I love a good Sondheim show and I’m portraying a super awful character, but also fun and flirty. Gussie is definitely on the crazy side, which is always a blast! It’s also directed by one of my favorite people, Beth Daily, and assistant directed by my best friend, Val Umbro, a dynamic duo for sure. I’m also grateful to be assistant directing The Trial with Paul Mroczka in the fall. It’ll be such a great challenge and growing experience for me.
Click here to learn more about Ariel’s Royal Princess Celebration fundraiser on August 5. Click here or call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets to Company Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid from Friday, July 28 through Sunday, August 20 at The Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. Follow Company Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and more.