By Steve Kannon
The tropics, under the sea or otherwise, seem like a much better place to be as we suffer through some midwinter weather. Way down south, or deep in the heart of Elmira, in this case, they’ve come up with a tropical paradise that’s all about some fun-filled escapism. This one even comes with mermaids.
Well, one mermaid in particular: Ariel, a.k.a. The Little Mermaid, on stage this week courtesy of the Elmira District Secondary School drama department.
For the one or two people not at least passingly familiar with the 1989 film, itself based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved stories, The Little Mermaid takes us on an adventure as Ariel looks to leave her ocean home in favour of a life on dry land above – going from fin to feet, as it were. But first, she’ll have to defy her father, the king of the sea, escape the clutches of an evil sea witch and convince a prince that she’s the girl with the perfect voice.
A Broadway adaptation forms the basis of this production.
It’s something of a departure for long-time drama department head DJ Carroll.
“This is my 20th year teaching drama, so I decided I wanted to do something big,” he explained, noting they looked at shows in the vein of the Wizard of Oz and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before opting for The Little Mermaid.
“I’ve never done a Disney play or musical … so this is different.”
Most of his students, however, are more than familiar with the Disney universe.
“All the kids now, they grew up watching the cartoon,” he said. “People know the story, and they’re familiar with the music.”
As with the movie, the stage version revolves around Ariel, a young mermaid who is fascinated by life on the land. When she falls for a human, Prince Eric, her determination to be on land only grows stronger. Against the wishes of her father, King Triton, she makes a deal with a witch, Ursula, to make it happen. She is aided by a colourful group of underwater friends, including a stern Caribbean crab, Sebastian, her faithful fish sidekick, Flounder, and the goofy seagull Scuttle.
The theatrical version contains all of the songs from the Academy Award-winning animated feature film – including “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World,” and “Kiss The Girl” – as well as three new songs from the Broadway show, which debuted in 2008.
For the EDSS production, Ariel is played by Hadley Mustakas, joined by Dani Scott’s Sebastian, Elias Gallant’s Flounder and Evelyne Jewitt-Dyck’s Scuttle. Simon Zenker is the object of her affection, Prince Eric.
“I love The Little Mermaid. Ariel is my favourite of the Disney princesses – I’m over the moon,” said Mustakas of her role.
“I have actually wanted to be a Disney prince,” laughed Zenker at a dress rehearsal Tuesday.
For Scott, the role of Sebastian may not have been a childhood dream, but she’s enjoying every minute of it now.
“Sebastian was one of my favourite characters in the movie,” she said, admitting “I actually want to be Ursula,” the villain.
“I prefer Sebastian now – he’s really fun to play.”
A live-action musical, the theatrical version requires more than a little magic to capture the spirit of an animated film. Costumes, lighting and props are used to create the undersea portions of the story. In this, the school has been aided by Drayton Entertainment, which has staged the show itself.
“What’s been really fantastic is Drayton Entertainment stepped in and loaned us some equipment, some technical expertise. Jackie Mustakas stepped in to do some directing and choreography with the project, so that has allowed us to up our special effects,” he said. “That’s allowed us to take things to a different level,” said Carroll.
The EDSS Youth Players production of The Little Mermaid hits the stage in the EDSS gym tonight (February 20) at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10, $5 for children 13 and under, or $25 for a Saturday matinee family pass, available online.