The Muny’s 99th season continues June 20-29 with its production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” Jerry Dixon, of New York, portrays King Triton, Ariel’s father. Dixon is no stranger to the stage, and though King Triton is only one of a few large production characters Dixon has portrayed, his excitement for the role isn’t shadowed.
“I’m ecstatic,” Dixon says. “Yesterday, I got to go to my fitting, and my costume is pretty amazing.” The King of the Sea isn’t an overwhelmingly line-heavy character, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear Triton’s voice when he is on stage. “The size of how he has to perform, it’s grand, a Shakespearean role. He’s written in a very mythological way because he’s a god.”
It’s not just the booming presence that Dixon is excited for, but the characterization as well. “Not being a parent myself, but being someone who feels like I’m a nurturing person, I find it easy to access anger and also find it easy to find the hurt in Ariel’s eyes when I’ve gone too far,” says Dixon, adding that though he has to be larger than life, he is aware of the level-headedness the character must take on. “You can be a bit bombastic, and it doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t do anything for the character.”
Dixon may not be a stranger to the stage, but he is new to the Muny. “The people are on a different kind of engine here; there is this confidence of knowing there’s this huge insurmountable thing that you have to do. There is this methodical confidence that it’s going to happen and no one has to cry or yell.”
Although the Muny could have rented a set for “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” the theater instead chose to build its own unique set for the production.
“The design is completely different; the way that we’re moving is completely different,” Dixon says, praising the efforts of the production team. He loves the unique setting, the resources provided by the Muny and the organization provided by everyone he’s been working with for the show. “With all that organization, it could become really sort of cold and robotic. And I don’t think [the atmosphere] could happen in many parts of the country.”
“One of my favorite things is that click that happens when a cast becomes a company,” Dixon continues. “There’s a very quickly fashioned intimacy with a company. You see what each other’s needs are. One of our bonding moments [was when] a group of us got together a few weeks ago and watched the Tony [Awards]. We kept it really celebratory. Let’s celebrate what we do.”
Dixon has had plenty of experience in different casts. His background is as wide and wavering as the deep blue sea. “The first musical I got was ‘Tom Sawyer,’ but my mother did not like that. This was third grade, and my dreams were crushed,” Dixon jokes. “The high school came to lunch one time while I was in junior high in Kalamazoo, and this senior girl performed ‘Shy’ from ‘Once Upon a Mattress,’ and I thought it was the best thing I had ever witnessed. The next year I was opposite her in ‘Anything Goes.’ It was the first time a sophomore took the lead in a high school musical. That got me hooked.
“Once I got to New York, I didn’t know much about small musicals. But, when I got there, I was able to — thanks to a beautiful sponsorship from a patron of the arts in Kalamazoo — sort of pick and choose which isn’t something a lot of young actors get to do. That meant I didn’t have to tour or do something I didn’t want to do,” Dixon continues.
Dixon’s true passion is theater. Whether it’s acting, writing, directing or producing, Dixon eats, sleeps and breathes his work. “ I like the real process of the theater. The collaborative force in the theater is really the juice that gets me going.”
For now, you can see Jerry Dixon at the Muny June 20-29 for “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” V