Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch – Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Book and Lyrics: Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx

Music: Tim Gilvin

Director: Robyn Grant

It might come as a surprise to some, that in Disney’s iteration of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Ursula the Cecaelian sea-witch was inspired by drag icon Divine (you see it now don’t you?) not that Disney would ever acknowledge this openly. Here, in Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx and Tim Gilvin’s musical parody,Unfortunate. Ursula gets her great big, drag inspired, two and a half hours, moment in the spotlight.

The much maligned but equally much-loved Ursula, the Little Mermaid’s arch nemesis has, over the years, become an icon herself, one of Disney’s favourite baddies but never before has she had the chance to explain. In the tradition of Wicked, this is her back story. And what ensues over the next two and a half hours is a magnificently over-the-top, fun-filled, eye-opening extravaganza.

All subtlety is out of the window in Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx’s book and lyrics, this is camp of the highest order and plays perfectly to Ursula’s Queer fanbase. It is punny and full of innuendo and in-jokes, for British audiences it is almost pantomime (but definitely not for the kiddies). Thankfully, it is so much more than that.

For all its silliness, and to its writers’ credit, it addresses some of the more problematic aspects of the Disney animation: Sebastian is now Irish rather than fake Jamaican, the troublesome Kiss the Girl is re-worked as Ask the Girl, Ursula continually decries the lack of strong female role models in young women’s lives and the bottom-dwelling sea creatures get a glorious celebration of their looks in We Didn’t Make It To Disney.

There are numerous earworms throughout. The songs range from big brassy showtunes, to electro-disco bangers to 80s power ballads complete with mullets blowing in the wind. What is never compromised is quality. There are nods a-plenty in the score to the great and good of musical theatre. There are hints of Wicked, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Mis, Hamilton and Rent. Just enough to stir recognition but not enough to get sued.

When something is this over-the-top, the quality of the cast is essential to its success. Thankfully they are universally outstanding with Shawna Hamic’s Ursula and Thomas Lowe’s Triton knock out in the vocal and acting departments. Truly impressive too is Allie Dart in a breath-taking array of roles and Drag Race alumni River Medway as the air-headed Ariel. That said, there is not a weak link among them.

Ursula may have been wronged in the past, but the utterly entertaining Unfortunate puts it right. A feel-good, fun-filled, evening of escape.

Runs until 4 May 2024 | Image: Pamela Raith

The Reviews Hub Score

A feel-good, fun-filled, evening of escape.

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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