The Little Mermaid is at the Schuster Center August 8 -13. Mike Woody goes behind the scenes with Melvin Abston, who plays Sebastian.
He’s living such a dream that Melvin Abston has to pinch himself to make sure it’s true, which is an act made easy due to the claws he’s armed with. Abston plays Sebastian in the touring production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, which will be in Dayton, August 8 – 13 at the Schuster Center. The Little Mermaid is a story that Abston has always been a fan of, and he’s thrilled to be swept away in its epic adventure.
Throughout its history, Disney has created a countless amount of memorable roles and Abston feels very blessed with the opportunity to fulfill one of them. “Some people get to play a classic Disney character and say the lines that everyone knows or sing a favorite song, but to do both is truly special,” he said.
As a young child, Abston would watch his VHS version of The Little Mermaid over and over, and was always especially drawn to Sebastian because he was voiced by Sam Wright. To follow in his footsteps with the singing of Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl is extremely gratifying to Abston.
Now that he’s a father, Abston also feels a personal connection with Sebastian,that goes beyond the funny lines he enjoyed as a kid. Abston found some parallels between how he wants to raise his children and how Sebastian watches over Ariel. There’s a big world outside of the ocean that’s worthy of exploring, but contains some dangerous risks to be aware of. “I want to protect my children, but not shelter them from the world and its experiences. There’s a fine line to navigate between having them learn by experiencing life and hearing lectures, while still wanting the best choices to be made,” he said. “Sebastian want’s what is best for Ariel, but also wants to do right by King Triton.”
Beyond the story of Ariel, the mermaid who yearns to be human and sacrifice her life in the water, after falling in love with a Prince there is a lot more to enjoy about the staged musical. In addition to the colorful costumes are visual effects, such as the appearance of Ariel swimming through the air and Scuttle flying. “It’s not just a show that everyone knows, but it’s a real visual treat,” said Abston.
In addition, Abston warned that after entering the theatre, attendants will feel as if they are immersed into the water from the sound system.
Abston’s acting credits go beyond the stage, where he appeared on Broadway in Sister Act and the National Tours of The Lion King and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He had guest spots on the television series; Weeds, Gotham, Raising Hope and a recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy. While on Grey’s Anatomy, Abston had the privilege of working with Debbie Allen. He was thrilled with the opportunity to speak with her about the industry between takes.
Playing the role of Sebastian has helped shape Abston in a number of ways, including physically. The costume, which consists of five layers, a wig, make-up and claws adds up to a lot of weight for him to carry around. “We were at an outdoor venue us Vienna, VA where the coolest temperature while we were there was 90 degrees. I started sweating backstage before the show and didn’t stop until I was back in my hotel room that night. People say, ‘You look good. Are you losing weight?’ I say, ‘Yes, I’m on The Little Mermaid diet’,” Abston laughed.
An extra thrill Abston enjoys from being part of the show is seeing all the generations of families that come to see it. “Parents who were kids when the movie came out are now bringing their children and coming with their parents. It’s really neat to see and glad they got the opportunity to watch it in like 3-D with real actors,” he said.
Take a trip under the sea for Disney’s The Little Mermaid, August 8 -13 at the Schuster Center.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.