…where Triton is King! And the Merpeople sing! In mysterious fathoms below! Plunging into the third part of “Under the Sea with CCP” as opening weekend rests upon us, TheatreBloom sits down with Joseph Mannherz to discover what it’s like to play the almighty ruler of the sea in this fun-filled Disney musical.
Thank you for taking a moment of your time to sit with us! If you’d give us a little introduction, we’ll get started.
Joseph Mannherz: Well, I’m Joseph Mannherz and I’m playing King Triton. The last couple of years I’ve been in an original play at CCBC called O’er the Ramparts for the bicentennial of the bombing of Fort McHenry. It was pretty interesting. The people at Essex and Dundalk, the musicians and scriptwriters, they all got together and wrote an original play depicting the time just before and during the bombardment, it was really neat. I did Sound of Music up at Cecil, well, Milburn Stone. I played the Captain.
What was the appeal to want to come out and be a part of The Little Mermaid?
Joseph: The Little Mermaid itself. As you approach my tender age, there’s not a lot of roles readily available. So when I see things like this come along, I start thinking about them. Of course the consequences of getting the part always come after that. I realize it means giving up every weekend, for three months, in the summer. And I thought, “What was I thinking? Why do I do this?” I say that to myself every night just before I walk out on stage and the butterflies hit. But the Triton character is in my age range, and the story is just lovely.
What’s it like working with Charm City Players?
Joseph: This is my first time working with this particular company and I’m enjoying it tremendously. The people are very nice, the actors are very talented. They’ve put together a really talented group of people. And then they also picked me, for some reason. I hope I don’t disappoint them.
What are some of the challenges you are encountering with playing King Triton?
Joseph: You mean other than not having a summer vacation? I think that of the characters in this particular show he has to show a myriad of different emotions. He has to be a benevolent king, he has to be a good father, but he’s got to control his temper. He goes from one extreme to the other in dealing with every little character and all of their little quirks all throughout the show. He has to deal with a delinquent daughter, and his evil sister, he’s got to handle a lot of different situations and he handles them all differently. You have to not lose it but keep it in control all across the wide range, and you have to go back and forth with that so that the audience can see the range of conflicts that the king has to go through in dealing with his subjects and his children and his horrid sister.
Are you and Triton similar? Or are you different?
Joseph: I don’t get as angry as he does. Of course, I don’t have a trident either to carry around and dispense my power through. And I do not have seven teenage daughters, not a one. And Triton only has to deal with them in little bursts, them and their fickleness. And Sebastian. Like I said, they all have their own temperaments and I feel like the referee. The director says “go” and the ball gets punted into the middle of the stage and I’m trying to be the referee on stage while it all goes down.
If you could ask the sea witch for one wish from her magical shell, what would you wish for?
Joseph: Jeez. I don’t know. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Hmm. Ooh. Summer vacation. I think I’d ask for a voice that wouldn’t fluctuate with the seasonal allergies. I’d like to have a nice constant, controllable singing voice that’s pleasant and that people would want to hear.
Aerial’s most treasured possession is her voice. What is your most cherished possession and would you trade it for a chance at true love?
Joseph: Well, my most cherished possession is glued through my hand throughout the play, which gives me unlimited power. But I think for true love I’d give it up. Who wants all that power anyway? Well, Ursula, but we’re going to thwart her efforts in the show.
What is your favorite musical number?
Joseph: I like “Les Poissons.” I actually auditioned for that part, the part of Chef Louis— au-huah-huah! It’s just a fun role. It’s small but a very significant part of the show. You could just have fun with it and let yourself go nuts. It’s the comic relief in the show so it’s a great fun song.
If you could be a mermaid, would you be one?
Joseph: Probably not. Although we sing under the water, have you tried to do that in reality? I don’t think I would like to be in a location where you couldn’t hear music or produce it because that’s a big part of my life.
What has being a part of this show taught you about yourself?
Joseph: Be flexible. Deal with casts and crews and directors and musicians. That’s like that with all shows. But just, be flexible.
Were you raised on the Disney version or the Hans Christian Andersen version?
Joseph: Well, both. I knew about the fairytale story way back when. And when Disney came out with their little movie I thought that was an interesting twist to it. It’s interesting to see how it morphed over the years, from the original story, through to the Disney film, to the first production on Broadway, to the last production on Broadway, to what you’re going to see here with us. It changed a lot. The dialogue, the music, so much has changed.
If you could be any underwater creature what would you be?
Joseph: Shark. King of the seas, go anywhere, do anything. Nobody screws with me if I’m a shark.
What’s your favorite piece of human stuff?
Joseph: Hmm. Triton doesn’t have any really, that’s her bailiwick. I like the meerschaum pipe. Oh what do they call it? The snarfblat. I had a meerschaum one time, way back when, when I smoked.
Why do you want people to come and see The Little Mermaid?
Joseph: I think the cast is very good. There is some talent here. I think when it gels it’s going to be a very nice show to see, it’s going to be very entertaining.
The Little Mermaid plays through July 17, 2016 at Charm City Players now in residence at Mercy High School in the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium— 1300 E. Northern Parkway in Baltimore, MD. To purchase tickets, call the box office at (410) 472-4737 or purchase them online.
To read Part 1 of Under the Sea with CCP: B. Thomas Rinaldi as Chef Louis, click here.
To read Part 2 of Under the Sea with CCP: Logan Dubel as Flounder, click here.