Drew Seeley: Little Big Man
The new star of The Little Mermaid talks about finally making it to Broadway in Disney's big-budget musical.
THEATERMANIA: Is that "whole other audience" coming to see you in the show?
DREW SEELEY: Yeah. Every night at the stage door there are girls and boys with buttons on their shirts that say "This Is My First Broadway Show!" And I say to them, "Me too!"
TM: Did you hope that you would come to Broadway when you were in Show Boat?
DS: That was my amazing after-school job. In middle school, when the rest of my friends were playing hockey, I was going to the theater and getting to work with Robert Morse and Elaine Stritch and Susan Stroman. It was a great introduction to acting. But right after the Show Boat run, my family and I moved to Orlando, which is where I lived for the next 10 years. I did a lot of high school theater there, but Broadway was just a distant dream at that point. So this summer, when this opportunity to join The Little Mermaid came along, I jumped on it so quickly!
TM: Did you work in Disney's theme park shows when you lived in Orlando?
DS: Funny enough I didn't, although a lot of my friends did. I didn't start working with Disney until I moved to Los Angeles about five years ago and got involved with High School Musical and I've been working with Disney ever since then.
TM: Why do you respond so strongly to the songs from The Little Mermaid?
DS: I'm a big melody guy, and the melodies that Alan Menken created are just undeniable. But what fascinates me is that the songs from the musical are just as beautiful and memorable as the ones from the animated film, and the audiences are responding just as much to the new songs that they've never heard as the classic ones they know.
TM: Is that why you decided to record a new version of "Her Voice"?
DS: I'm only here for a short time, so I thought why not throw a new spin on it and do something I don't think had been done to a Broadway song before. The creative team here ran with that idea and then took it to the next level and we shot a video. So it's turned into something more than I expected, and I'm really happy with it. It's fun to have two versions of the song: the beautiful one I sing on stage and this remix that a whole other audience might relate to and that I can perform in the future.
TM: Is doing this role more challenging for you physically or vocally?
DS: It's both. I'm used to studio singing, so reaching out to the back row and holding some of these notes is something I am always working on. The dancing is also a different kind of dancing than I am used to. "One Step Closer" is my favorite song to do in the show, but it's also when I have to do the most dancing and singing. A couple of times, the little panel thing that I ride out on after Ariel saves me was broken, so I had to do a military crawl to get across the stage. I really had to hustle to get there in a race with the music.
TM: Who was helpful in getting you Broadway-ready?
DS: Tara Young, the assistant choreographer, was also the assistant choreographer for Show Boat, so we knew each other, and she whipped me into shape very quickly. Chelsea Morgan Stock, my Ariel, is a joy to work with, and she's been doing the show for a while; but in couples dancing, we both had to learn what works with us as partners. Jonathan Freeman, who plays Grimsby, is a great guy and a wealth of knowledge. And Sean Palmer, who played Prince Eric before me, helped a lot while I was shadowing him, showing me tricks of the trade like how to do the quick changes. For "One Step Closer" and "Kiss The Girl": the quick change is right on the side of the stage, and sometimes I'm sweating buckets -- but I always have my clothes on when I'm supposed to.
TM: What is the biggest difference between acting for the camera and acting on stage?
DS: There's not really a difference. People say you have to be bigger for the stage and smaller for the camera, but really you've got to believe in what you're saying. I'm just finding that the biggest difference is it takes a lot more stamina to do a show like this eight times a week. You can't take breaks to go to the craft services table. But I'm definitely having a great time and I'd love to do more Broadway in the future.