Reviews are coming in for the new musical Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch at Southwark Playhouse in London.
This riotous new show comes to London following a much talked-about run in Edinburgh, and features an impressive cast including Shawna Hamic (Orange is the New Black) in her UK stage debut as Ursula, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star River Medway as Ariel, Thomas Lowe as Triton, Allie Dart as Sebastian, Jamie Mawson as Eric, Julian Capolei as Grimsby, and and the ensemble includes Corrina Buchan, Jack Gray, Jamie McKillop and Milly Willows.
The show is a defiantly queer musical parody of the Disney’s Little Mermaid, where villainess Ursula is given the benefit of doubt and allowed to tell her side of the story!
Unfortunate is written and co-directed by Robyn Grant, and co-directed by Daniel Foxx, with music, arrangements and orchestrations by Tim Gilvin.
The creative team also includes set, costume and puppet design by Abby Clarke, choreography by Melody Sinclair, musical direction by Arlene McNaught, flying and effects by John Maddox for Suspended Illusions, make-up design by Maya Lewis, production management by Titch Gosling, assistant direction by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and casting direction by Sarah Leung CDG.
Read reviews, below, from The Stage, Attitude and more, with further reviews to be added.
Unfortunate is playing at Southwark Playhouse Elephant until 17 February 2024 and will then embark on a UK tour.
UPDATED: Originally published 16 December 2024; Updated 4 January 2024 with further reviews
Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch reviews
"Reappraisal of a Disney classic with an audacious queer perspective"
"Grant and Foxx’s musical comedy is a riotous parody calling out the dubious messages that can make their way into Disney movies. There are wry swipes throughout at issues of race, body image, sexual identity and consent, melded with a narrative that references a host of Disney classics, from Ratatouille to Frozen. The work has been fine-tuned to include new musical numbers from composer Tim Gilvin, and Grant’s triumphant production – which even incorporates flying, or rather swimming, sequences – is the perfect antidote to the winter blues."
"Inspired casting sees Drag Race UK’s River Medway playing Ariel, striving for independence while sucking on a bubble tea and dreaming of men."
"This show, however, hangs on the central role of Ursula, played to perfection by Shawna Hamic. Disney’s Ursula may have been inspired by the drag queen Divine, but Hamic claims it as her own, layering wisdom, authority and a fabulous sense of self."
"2.5 hours of hilariously camp fun"
"This very adult-themed parody pays service to the character's queer fanbase"
"This intimate venue proves perfect for the raucous and delightfully crude production, which tells an alternative backstory of everyone’s favourite Disney villain, played by Shawna Hamic. The Orange Is The New Black actor is every bit the human embodiment of Ursula, from Divine-inspired filth and sass to soaring pitch-perfect vocals."
"With Tim Gilvin’s cheeky musical reimagining of the Disney classic’s most well known hits pairing perfectly with the outstanding vocals, this is a production firing on all cylinders."
"A vampish squid commands this Disney parody"
"Grant’s ambitious production, which is touring the UK to July, is big, long, loud, rude, inventive, silly and knowing fun. Sometimes it tips over into chaos, but by the time the end is in view it has shaped up into a ridiculously enjoyable piece of entertainment."
"Hamic’s blazing camp authority sets the show’s tone. And she can, literally, sing up a storm."
"Nothing unfortunate here: this show has cult potential."
"It’s actually less a send-up of the Disney original than a loving homage larded with knowing humour, a queer sensibility and lashings of glittery camp. Similarly, American star Shawna Hamic’s performance as Ursula often sounds like a vocal tribute to Pat Carroll’s original turn in the movie but is never a slavish impersonation. Hamic has a glorious instrument of her own, capable of operatic trilling then full-throated belt to soulful all within a couple of bars, and she’s drolly funny, more sassy and stroppy than actually evil."
"A chaotic camp delight"
"The Divine-inspired villain of The Little Mermaid and her rag-tag band of gay sea creatures reclaim their narrative in a boundlessly energetic, beautifully belted musical parody"
"In Unfortunate, a camp new musical parody that’s ridden the wave of Edinburgh fringe success, a rag-tag band of gay sea creatures and ancient demigods stage a kind of reclamation, both for Ursula’s reputation and for the queer characters who could have been."
"At nearly three hours, this origin story is overstuffed, but the cast approach it with boundless energy and constant camp delight. Shawna Hamic is glorious as the wronged – but still murderous – Ursula, powerful and furious in the dark, filthy waters. River Medway, from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, is a fabulously airheaded Ariel, desperately singing about how horny she is. The whole team throw their all at it, particularly Allie Dart and Julian Capolei, who leap between characters, accents and Abby Clarke’s fabulous neon costumes."