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REVIEW: Unfortunate (UK Tour, Glasgow 2024)

Updated: May 2

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch

Book and Lyrics by Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx; Music by Tim Gilvin; Director: Robyn Grant


The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow

30 April 2024

⭐⭐⭐


Shawna Hamic as Ursula in Unfortunate the musical. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is Disney villain Ursula's version of the events that took place in Disney's original The Little Mermaid.


Like Wicked and Maleficent, 'Unfortunate' is a prime example of the saying "there's always two sides to every story."


Here Octo-woman and plus-size icon Ursula finally has the chance to set the record straight, and she does it in musical form! The outcasts and the baddies always have the most interesting stories and in this new, extended version of 'Unfortunate' we are treated to even more of Ursula's.


When teenage Prince Triton (Thomas Lowe) is forced to find a bride, his attentions turn to his friend Ursula (Shawna Hamic). An unconventional choice, Ursula is a member of the mistrusted 'octo people' and does not meet with his fathers aspirations for the future of his kingdom. King Neptune's hatches a dastardly scheme that sees Ursula disgraced and banished to the dark corners of the realm where she lives with all the sea creatures who 'Didn't make it to Disney.'


Twenty years later the now King Triton turns up begging Ursula for help with his troublesome daughter Ariel (River Medway) - dun dun dun, The Little Mermaid!


River Medway as Aerial in Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the sea witch. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

This retelling of The Little Mermaid is not for children. Right from the start Ursula is outspoken and explicit. She tells it like it is and it's such a breath of fresh air. The writing is sharp and hilarious; and the naughty jokes are delivered at such pace it's impossible to catch them all. Sometimes the volume of the music did overpower the dialogue. I wish I'd had subtitles to fully appreciate every word.


Sex is on everyone's minds under the sea. With sublime songs like "Sucking on You" and "Where the dicks are" it becomes clear pretty quickly that this show is definitely not safe for work. All the men under the sea are fish from the waist down, so when Ariel finds a discarded copy of Cosmopolitan magazine she becomes obsessed with human males and their penises. Of course she does!


Shawna Hamic and Thomas Lowe as Ursula and Triton in Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the sea witch. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

The Fringe version of Unfortunate that I saw a few years ago ran just over an hour long. It was short, sharp and impactful. This extended, full stage version is over 2.5 hours including interval. That does allow for a more detailed story and for more musical numbers, but it perhaps tries to do too much.


New song 'Les Poissons' and its related scene is a fabulous addition to the show. Allie Dart is magnificent (as always) as Chef Colette, and the whole scene is a comedic work of genius. However I did find this version of Unfortunate ran a little long on the whole. I felt it dragged in the second act and not all of the added songs are as successful as 'Les Poissons' or 'Sucking on you'. It's a tough one because this longer tale is still an incredibly fun ride and gives us so much more context, but it could do with being edited down a little.


The set has greatly improved since it's days in a tent at the Fringe; it's difficult to see how the nautical design by Abby Clarke could be improved further. It's perfect. Likewise Abby's puppets are gorgeous and add a lot of interest and fun to the show. They really shine during "We Didn't Make it to Disney" when we get to find out just which of their various ailments held them back. It's very un-pc, but very funny.


The cast of Unfortunate and the puppets by Abby Clarke. Photo: Pamela Raith

The 2024 cast of Unfortunate are a real credit to the show.


Broadway and TV star Shawna Hamic is magnificent in the lead role of Ursula. She's confident, sassy, and funny as hell. I genuinely felt a little starstruck seeing her grace the stage of our local Glasgow Pavilion Theatre. Unfortunate are so lucky to have her; she's the perfect proud Ursula, and her superb vocals prove why she's been such a hit on and off Broadway.


It's a bold choice to have Disney Princess Ariel played by Rupaul's Drag Race star River Medway. But the show is filled with queer representation and pride, so I find that it works well. Just as you would expect from a beautiful drag artiste, their makeup is perfect and they play the role with enthusiasm and obvious delight at the filthy humour. Cartoon Ariel wishes she looked as good as River Medway.


Allie Dart seriously impresses as Sebastian and about 20 other characters. She is never off of the stage! Allie must be one of the hardest working performers in the UK today. And she excels in every role she plays in Unfortunate. Every accent, every dance move, every facial expression is executed flawlessly. She is a sensation, and surely the cornerstone of the entire production.


Thomas Lowe and Jamie Mawson bring quality, great humour and powerful vocals to the leading men in the story (Tritan, Neptune and Eric.) And Julian Capolei is a standout as Grimsby and Vanessa. What stage presence! I am unsurprised to read that they trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Watch this space: Capolei is bound for superstardom.


Julian Capolei in Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the sea witch. Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Every member of the company brings boundless energy and enthusiasm to the stage: they swap characters, costumes and accents at the speed of light. No one wanes despite the lengthy running time and numerous high energy dance numbers. They all look to still be enjoying themselves during the disco finale "I'm That Witch" It's a seriously impressive effort from the whole team.


At the end of 'Unfortunate' Ursula herself admits that the show is "A Lot" and she is correct. There is a lot of story, so many songs, scenes and characters to take in. It's chaotic and potentially overwhelming. But it's also full of camp disco and joyous original pop songs, biting humour and bold new writing - exactly what we need more of in the UK.


With a few tweaks to tighten the storyline and more budget for sequin-covered costumes for the ensemble (especially when playing the sea creatures!) Unfortunate could be even better. At the moment tickets cost between £17 and £38, so it's definitely at the more accessible end of the Glasgow theatre ticket scale, and a great bargain to see such an accomplished cast.


Don't be a Poor Unfortunate Soul - go join them for a riotous laugh under the sea this week!


Ursula, Ariel and all the creatures who didn't make it to Disney are starring in Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch at Glasgow Pavilion Theatre now until Sat 4th May 2024. Tickets here


⭐⭐⭐


🦀 Find out more about the show directly from cast members Allie Dart and Jamie Mawson in my interview with them here


⚠️ Age guidance 16+

Contains strong language, partial nudity, scenes of a sexual nature and flashing lights.


📸 Production photos: Pamela Raith


Unfortunate musical 2024 UK tour


 

Unfortunate CAST (UK Tour 2024)


Shawna Hamic Ursula

River Medway Ariel

Thomas Lowe Triton

Allie Dart Sebastian

Jamie Mawson Eric

Julian Capolei Grimsby

Corrina Buchan Ensemble

Jack Gray Ensemble

Jamie McKillop Ensemble

Milly Willows Ensemble


Book & Lyrics Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx

Music Tim Gilvin

Director Robyn Grant

Set, Costume and Puppet Designer Abby Clarke


 

Unfortunate review, UK Tour at The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow April 2024. Musical Theatre, Shawna Hamic, River Medway, Allie Dart.


🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and invites have no impact on my analysis or star ratings.



📸 Find Lisa in the Theatre on Instagram and Twitter / X


Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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