The mischievous king/queen of cabaret and panto, Trevor Ashley, is diving deep and scraping the very bottom of the ocean for his next show, The White Mermaid (or The Little Lotus). As the title suggests, it’s an ambivalent parody of either a beloved Disney musical or hit HBO series or a mash of both.
“We thought we’d do a parody of two very well known things and try and make sense of what would happen if Jennifer Coolidge’s character from The White Lotus plays the White Mermaid in a Disney show,” explains Ashley.
What isn’t ambivalent is the phenomenal success of Ashley’s previous parody pantos and the near certainty that The White Mermaid (or The Little Lotus) will follow suit. Ashley and regular writing pal, Phil Scott, have already tested the limits of acceptable depravity with previous shows including The Lyin’ Queen, The Body Bag, and Moulin Scrooge — but they intend to go below and beyond with The White Mermaid.
The plot, or what there is of one, is as follows: Tania McMermaid (Ashley), distraught after a recent loss, seeks solace at The Little Lotus, a grand underwater hotel. Here she unexpectedly finds love with the Character Formerly Known As Prince (Jakob Ambrose). But alas, their flourishing romance is threatened by a terrifying predator of the ocean — Gaviscon, the sea witch (played by the legendary Carlotta AM).
Carlotta and Ambrose, along with Stephen Madsen and Jarrod Moore were all invited back because Ashley had so much fun working with them in last year’s Moulin Scrooge!
“Normally I change the casting every year, but we decided this year, because we’re set under the sea we’re all about recycling. So, I’m recycling props, costumes, set pieces, and Carlotta,” laughs Ashley.
“I love that she enjoys doing this so much. It’s a really great thing. And you know she just turned 80, so to get to work with a legend like her on a nightly basis is amazing.”
Ashley enjoys writing for Carlotta because he knows what material suits her personality; plus, she has such a strong identity and rich history to draw from.
“In this show we make the gag that she used to work in an underwater night club called Les Gills.”
Ashley says people don’t need to have seen The Little Mermaid or The White Lotus to enjoy this show, but being a bit familiar with each will obviously help you get some of the in-jokes. The bulk of the The White Mermaid (or The Little Lotus) is general vulgarity and humour.
As ever, the show features musical numbers.
“Quite a few songs come from Little Mermaid but also we’re doing some bizarre choices. We’re doing everything from “Yellow Submarine” to “Waterloo” to friggin “The Goodship Lollypop”! I mean it’s a very bizarre mix of numbers. I’m doing an Ethel Merman song…it’s a really mixed bag of material this year,” says Ashley.
Also as ever, the sets and costumes are ostentatious and magnificent, recreating a magical underwater world. Ashley is resplendent in a mermaid costume in the first half (most of which he spends sitting on a rock because he can’t walk in the tail). Carlotta will have octopus legs. Elsewhere, expect to see giant lobster claws among other surprises.
“It’s so silly and the parody is great. And the costumes are beautiful and the boys are beautiful, so you know, it’s got something for everyone,” says Ashley. “I think everyone’s gonna love it.”
December 7 – 23
Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland St & City Rd, Chippendale