Lara Zinn is currently making her Olney Theatre Center debut as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. No stranger to working for Disney, Lara performed for almost two years for Disney Cruise Lines in Believe (Mary Poppins), Villains Tonight (Evil Queen), Toy Story the Musical (Bo Peep), and Dreams (Ariel). Locally she has been seen at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Les Miserables (Ensemble) and Grease (Sandy). College performances include Cabaret (Frauline Kost/Fritzie), On The Town (Claire DeLoone) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Miss Dorothy). Lara holds a BM in Musical Theatre from The Catholic University of America. Here is a young up and coming talent who is carrying the whole show on her shoulders (or tail if you prefer.)
As you will read, Lara is quite passionate about The Little Mermaid and working for Disney in general. Ariel is a prime example of a character who wants something and will stop at nothing to get it, and I have it on very good authority that Lara conveys that in her performance. She is a performer that I look forward to seeing in action at Olney Theatre Center and other area theatres as well. Please consider making Lara Zinn and Disney’s The Little Mermaid “Part of Your World” this holiday season. Here is a chance to see the musical that started the Disney renaissance. What better way to spend the holidays with your family.
You attended The Catholic University where you received a BA in Musical Theatre. How did the program at Catholic help you prepare for your professional career?
I am a proud graduate of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at CUA. I love my class of MT 2012, and the faculty and staff that were there during my four years became not just mentors for me, but they became my family. My vocal training with Doug Bowles prepared me for anything thrown at me to be quite honest. Ariel has a pretty crazy vocal track in this show. It is not just a lot of singing, but she covers a pretty intense vocal range. Low things in the “basement” of my range and some high long sustained notes that are right around my vocal break. I love singing in the mezzo soprano/soprano 2 land which is what Ariel is. I LOVE to sing these songs every night in this show. My highest soprano isn’t used in the show, but some soprano 1 vowel sounds and placement is used for me to hit some of those higher mixed notes. Doug gave my voice a run for its money for four years, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! I owe my pipes to Doug.
Jane Pesci-Townsend also gave me very important training that I think is vital for this role in particular. Ariel can be seen and expected to be this Disney Princess type that everyone knows and loves. That’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I want her to have some depth. Jane taught us to dissect every song we sing in a particular way. I could go on for hours about what she taught us, but the gist of it was she wanted our characters to have a soul. Whether we were the second girl from the right in the chorus or the leading lady, our character had a backstory that meant something to the story we were telling. Sweet Jane is no longer with us, and I wish so much that she could see this production. Luckily we have her husband and kids who come and support our CUA family all the time. What’s best is that her lessons live on in full, bright colors with each of us who were lucky enough to be one of her blank canvases.
Can you please tell us about your experiences working for Disney Cruise Lines?
DCL was an experience of a lifetime to say the least. My first contract was a few months after I graduated from CUA. I was a mainstage performer on the Disney Wonder. “Mainstage Performer” means we were actors, singers and dancers portraying various Disney characters in the live musical stage shows in the Walt Disney Theatre on the ship. There is a fine line with the Walt Disney Company regarding “character integrity,” and I would hate to ruin that amazing tradition of not “ruining the magic” for everyone out there. So, I won’t go into detail about what characters I was able to “be friends” with. BUT I can tell you about the amazing places I was able to see! My Wonder contract let me see places like, Cabo, Costa Maya, Cartegena (Columbia), Cozumel, Grand Cayman Islands, St. Thomas, St. Maarteen, Key West, and my favorite, The Panama Canal. It was truly an amazing time in my life. Disney also has a private island called Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) and it is a little slice of actual Heaven. I love it there. My second contract was on the Disney Dream which is one of the newer ships in the fleet and it had different shows as well, which was fun for me as a performer to learn new things and new characters. That ship went to Nassau (Bahamas) and Castaway Cay as well. When we aren’t performing in the shows in the theatre, we have different crew obligations in safety as well was Character Greeting where we assist Mickey Mouse and a bunch of other Disney Characters during their meet and greet times. When we aren’t doing those duties, we get time off the ship to do as we please. We have an all aboard time that we must abide by, so you better know when to get that water taxi back to the ship so you aren’t waving goodbye to the ship from land! I love the Walt Disney Company, and I would highly recommend it ANYONE I know. There are opportunities for almost every career you can think of. To say that I have worked for the #1 entertainment company in the world is such a blessing.
The Little Mermaid brought back the old style of Disney musical with songs that advanced the story rather than pop songs just dropped in? What is your favorite pre- Little Mermaid musical from Disney?
That might be the hardest question of all! I am not ashamed to admit this, but I have officially watched every single Disney Animated Feature in chronological order (From Snow White to Frozen). I have to go see Big Hero 6 now. I not only watched them but analyzed them, scored them, ranked them and then bought books and documentaries on Disney Animation. I’m a nerd. It’s fine. My friends Brance and Jesse did it with me and we are self-proclaimed Disney enthusiasts. So I like to think I know a thing or two about Disney movies. I will say this, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken wrote the most beautiful music for the Disney franchise to date. That’s what I feel. Sorry I’m not sorry. HOWEVER, as far as the classics that existed before then, hmmmm. I think that Sleeping Beauty may be my favorite. It is just so stunning. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate it. As an adult, go back and watch the original movie. I think it’s out of the “vault” now so there’s no excuse not to. The animation is all by hand and it might be the most spectacular example of Disney art and animation of that time. Tchaikovsky’s music that is used throughout the film is also one of the main reasons I love the movie. So with a great story, score and animation, it makes it almost a perfect Disney movie for me.
Why do you think the story of The Little Mermaid continues to enthrall audiences of all ages?
If you ever have some down time, a rainy/snow day, you must watch the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. It covers the time in the Walt Disney Company when animation took a step back and the parks became more of the “star”. The film takes you through the process of the animators, creative teams, etc. who were involved with the “Disney Renaissance Era” (1989-1999). I’m showing my Disney nerd skills again. Anyway, there was so much passion put into The Little Mermaid. It was the first film in a long time that brought the magic that Walt himself did when he was still alive. Howard Ashman has been said to be the closest comparison to Walt Disney as a creative leader. The story is originally dark and Disney has made it a more relatable classic. The music is gorgeous and the animation is great too. It was Disney’s first fairy tale in 30 years at the time. People needed a story like that and Disney gave it to them. I mean even today, who doesn’t love watching and singing along to that movie?!
After The Little Mermaid closes, what is next for you?
Welp! Nothin’ right now! I am happy to be back on land after two contracts that lasted almost two years total. There were rumors going around that I have another cruise contract lined up right after this. Well, that’s news to me! I plan on staying in the DC area for a while and live life up here! I love the idea that anything can happen after this amazing experience that I’ve had at Olney. Things are going so well in my life and I hope for that to continue.