Set to make a surprise appearance in Little Mermaid Live!, which is hybrid presentation of both new musical numbers featuring Auli’i Cravalho as Ariel. And while Benson was actually the first person considered to voice the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, a part which eventually went to Paige O’Hara, she has enjoyed a long and successful career as a voice actress.
While the 57-year-old voiced the role of Barbie in all the Toy Story films, the titular character of Thumbelina, and reprised her role as Ariel in Ralph Breaks the Internet, as well as in all of The Little Mermaid sequels and video games, Benson currently enjoys life with her family in Atlanta, Georgia.
Married to Ray Benson since 1984, her husband also works as her manager, they welcomed a son, McKinley, in 1999, and a daughter, Delaney, in 2001. Originally from Rockford, Illinois, the family bounced around from New York to Los Angeles before setting down in Georgia.
Benson told Theatre Art Life, “Once we had the kids, I wasn’t motivated to work nonstop until we were empty nesters. My first priority is being a wife and a mom and my job is second. For me, I have worked the perfect amount over the years. I think sometimes for Ray, he feels like he may have held me back but we just have to have faith that God’s in control. God’s in charge of our resume, He’s in charge of our pay checks. I’m not going to worry or fret about that kind of stuff. Can we work more, sure we could probably work more but there’s always a sacrifice in that.”
Benson clearly has an incredibly close relationship with her children, she homeschooled both of them. Delaney, who’s currently a student at University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, is following in her mother’s footsteps, pursuing a career as a theater actress. For Halloween this year, Delaney also dressed up like Ariel, her mother’s most iconic role, and wore a red-haired wig, purple top, and green mermaid skirt.
McKinley also works in the industry. A senior at Savannah College for Art and Design, he will graduate with a BFA in Film and Television in 2020. While attending SCAD, he’s produced a series of short films, for which he’s written and directed.
Benson Won a Tony Award for the Musical ‘Crazy For You’
Benson’s talent was not just limited to voice acting, and like her husband, who booked the national tour of Oklahoma! before they wed, loved to perform before a live audience. She joined the Broadway National tour of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and the international tour of “My One and Only,”
In 1992, playing the starring role of Polly Baker in Ira Gershwin’s musical, “Crazy For You,” Benson earned a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress, and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award.
Benson Continues to Perform as Ariel & Work Closely With Disney Productions
In order to keep her job as playing Ariel at Disney events around the world and on screen, Benson has to keep her voice in tip top shape. “Taking care of my voice is pretty important,” she explained, “because I won’t have a job if I don’t sound like the characters that I’ve created.”
Benson’s voice “needs to be rest and hydration.” She said, “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I try to eat as healthily as I possibly can. I have an amazing vocal coach, Joan Lader in New York that I’ve been with since 1983. She has become the vocal coach to the stars because she’s so incredible. I can Skype with her when needed, but I also have all of my tapes and everything that I do with her embedded in my brain as far as warm ups go. I’ve learned a lot about reflux over the years. If I ever get reflux, I know the different things I have to do to take care of the problem.”