Faith Prince set for 'Little Mermaid' villainess

NEW YORK (AP) -- "The Little Mermaid" is getting a new underwater villainess.

Faith Prince will join Disney's Broadway musical as Ursula the sea witch, the evil nemesis of the show's spirited young heroine, Ariel.

She will begin performances April 7, Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said Tuesday.

The musical is based on the hit 1989 Disney animated film and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The stage production features music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from the movie and 10 new songs by Menken and Glenn Slater.

Prince is best known on Broadway for her Tony-winning portrayal of Miss Adelaide in the raucous 1992 revival of "Guys and Dolls." Last season, she delivered a Tony-nominated performance in "A Catered Affair," the heartfelt, emotionally devastating tale of a marriage falling apart.

"I wanted something totally opposite from `A Catered Affair,'" Prince said in a telephone interview. "I never like to be the same, whether it be comedy or drama, funny or serious."

Prince worked in another Menken-Ashman production, "Little Shop of Horrors." The actress didn't open the show off-Broadway in 1982 because she was "caught up in another contract doing an industrial (show) I couldn't get out of. They put Ellen Greene in, and she was fantastic. I actually replaced her when she left the New York company and later after she did Los Angeles."

In an e-mail, Menken recalled, "From the moment I met Faith Prince, in the spring of 1982 when she came in to audition to play Audrey in our Equity showcase production of 'Little Shop of Horrors' at the WPA Theater, I was knocked out. She was sexy, beautiful, funny and touchingly vulnerable.

"Now, all these years later, this off-off-Broadway composer and that young ingenue get to share another show; this time on Broadway and a few decades on in their careers."

In "Mermaid," Prince, who said she has signed for a year's run, is replacing Heidi Blickenstaff who took over for the stage show's original Ursula, Sherie Rene Scott.

The actress is experienced at joining musicals mid-run. On Broadway, she replaced Donna Murphy in a revival of "The King and I" and Blair Brown in "James Joyce's The Dead."

Jumping into a show "is an art unto itself," Prince said. "I find if you are gentle, sort of just slip in, you can assess what is. ... I'm curious to see what's there within this material, which is a wonderful combination of darkness and light."