CRUELLA had her back story and Maleficent had her moment. Now it’s the turn of Ursula, the sea witch from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, to take the spotlight.

In the much-loved Disney animation of The Little Mermaid, released in 1989, Ursula is an evil octo-witch who offers a mermaid princess, Ariel, the chance to become human so she can win the love of Prince Eric. But Ursula’s real agenda is to sabotage Ariel’s chances so she can usurp her father, King Triton, and rule the ocean.

Ursula, who was inspired by legendary drag queen Divine, has long been hailed as one of Disney’s best villains.

Now, in hit parody musical Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch, the Disney Diva gets her chance to give her take on what really happened under the sea all those years ago.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The show features puppet choreography The show features puppet choreography (Image: Pamela Raith Photography)

The show, featuring a “hot pop soundtrack and trademark filthy humour”, is heading for Bradford off the back of a hit London run, with six Off West End Theatre Award nominations. It stars New York actor Shawna Hamic, star of Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, as Ursula and Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK star River Medway as Ariel.

With a new script and production, this latest version of the show is “bigger, bolder and sexier than ever before”.

* Shawna, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, what’s Unfortunate about?

“It’s the story of The Little Mermaid, but from Ursula’s side of things. It shows how and why Ursula became the octowoman she is and shows why you might not know what really happened. It’s naughty, fun, a fabulous journey back under the sea which reminds us all to celebrate what makes you you.”

* How did you get involved in the show?

“I’d been focused more on TV and film roles, I’d just finished playing Richard Henry Lee on Broadway and in the national tour of 1776 when I received a call from my agents asking if I’d be interested in auditioning for the role of Ursula in Unfortunate. I hadn’t heard about the show before that moment, but Ursula has always been my favourite Disney villain and I’ve always wanted to play her! So it all went from there.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ursula is hailed as one of the best Disney villains - now she gets chance to tell her story Ursula is hailed as one of the best Disney villains - now she gets chance to tell her story (Image: Pamela Raith Photography)

* Are there any similarities between you and Ursula?

“In our story Ursula had a traumatic childhood and as a big gal I experienced that myself. The name calling, the feeling of not being wanted or understood merely because you look different. Those experiences shape you. They either make you stronger or they break you in ways from which you can’t recover. At least not without help.

“My career is one where rejection is your constant companion. It’s just the nature of this business. I was used to rejection so, while it hurts and can damage your soul for a while, I have the tools to stay strong and keep moving ahead. I believe in myself. I think Ursula is the same. She’s gifted in ways others aren’t and has made her way in a world that would prefer she fail. It is our originality and our imperfections that we should celebrate. Our show reminds audiences that they should celebrate themselves in the same way.”

* Where did you draw inspiration from? “Well in my mind there wouldn’t be an Ursula without Pat Carroll (voice of Ursula in the 1989 animation) or Divine. So I pay homage to those icons for sure in a tone of voice or gesture, but I am my own Ursula. There is a part of me that is Ursula. Not the murdering, soul stealing witch, but the woman who rejoices in her own power and has the strength to go after what she wants.”

* What can audiences expect from Unfortunate? “You can expect a raunchy good time filled with laughs and songs you’ll leave the theatre humming. You can expect a fun night - one we hope makes you feel better about yourself and what you bring to the world.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Thomas Lowe as King Triton Thomas Lowe as King Triton (Image: Pamela Raith Photography)

* River Medway, a drag queen from Kent, play Ariel: “A few years ago I was on RuPaul‘s Drag Race UK, since then I’ve worked in many areas of entertainment from drag shows to plays, but finally I got myself a musical!”

*Are there any similarities between you and Ariel? “I wouldn’t say so much now, but definitely when I was younger. I can see myself in Ariel when I was around her age. I was desperate to get out of my hometown because I was bored and wanted to see the world. This is very much Ariel’s mindset.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: River Medway as ArielRiver Medway as Ariel

* You’re performing in drag as River Medway as Ariel. How did you find crafting a performance within a performance?

“It’s very interesting because when I’m in this character, I feel like Ariel. There are definitely elements of River but also myself. I like to see Ariel as an amalgamation of lots of things and I get fully engrossed. It’s such a fun character to play every night, I keep finding something new.”

What can audiences expect from Unfortunate?

“Eye-watering jokes, toe-tapping bops, and a good night out. It’s an outrageous, filthy, hilarious, heartwarming, parody musical that anyone with a soul would absolutely love. It’s a complete retelling of the story that you think you know with original songs and a fantastic cast. You’ll definitely leave wanting more!”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Shawna Hamic with Thomas LoweShawna Hamic with Thomas Lowe

* What message do you hope audiences take from it? “It’s a very fun show, but I really hope audiences take something more away - wider themes of acceptance and love for everyone around you.”

* Are there any other roles you would love to play in the future? “I love musicals that incorporate drag. I always loved shows like Kinky Boots and Priscilla but would also love to explore more roles out of drag too.”

* What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career? “Don’t ever stop! I’ve always been very determined in my career and I truly believe this is what got me to where I am today.

“Treat everyone with respect and remember to be the person that you want to work with. Hard work pays off and it’s all worth it.”

* Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch runs at the Alhambra from April 4-6. Call (01274) 432000 or visit Age guidance 16-plus.