Maine South High School will present the stage version of one of Disney’s most beloved animated stories with this year’s musical, “The Little Mermaid,” scheduled for April 21, 22, 23, 28 and 29 in the school auditorium. All showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for April 23, which will feature a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets may be purchased here
For young adults of a certain age - and their parents - this story needs little introduction. For those who have not seen the 1989 Disney version, “The Little Mermaid” is the delightful tale of Ariel, a brave, independent and rebellious teen mermaid who yearns to experience life on dry land. Her father, King Triton, forbids her from going to the surface and warns her of the “barbaric fisheaters” she’d find there. But, in pursuing her dream and affection for a human prince, Ariel strikes a deal with Ursula the sea witch, unaware that Ursula is plotting revenge against King Triton.
Adapted for the stage, “The Little Mermaid” adds backstory to the bitterness between King Triton and Ursula, introduces new songs to join the original classics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and further develops its characters, a key reason that South theater teacher and Director Carrie Saurer was drawn to the story.
“The themes are so strong in this musical. It has a depth and heart that maybe people don’t feel when watching the cartoon, and that’s what I’ve worked hard to try to pull out for the audience,” Saurer said. “This is not fluff; there’s a lot going on between the characters, and the musical does a good job of drawing that out. There’s a beautiful story here. Ariel is so relatable, and not just to young girls, but to anyone who has ever had to make a big sacrifice and, in doing so, take a risk - to be happy.”
Saurer noted that several of the production’s 46 actors will be challenged by playing multiple roles. “We may have someone who switches from being a sailor on Eric’s ship to a swan and then comes back to be a chef, which makes this a really cool and interesting experience for our cast.”
Considering that the story unfolds both under the sea and on the land, Saurer acknowledges that “the technical aspect of the show is huge, which has led to a lot of creative solutions.” To better mimic the movement of gliding through water, many cast members are wearing wheeled tennis shoes. Some actors will be trained by Vertigo Flying Company to enhance the special effects.
In addition to Ms. Saurer’s direction, pit direction is by David Hutter, vocal direction by Matthew Hanes, technical direction by Patrick Sanchez, costume design by Lori McCleneghan, choreography by Konnie Kay and hair and makeup supervision by Janet Hoeg. The producer is Maine South Fine Arts Chair Teralyn Keith.
Saurer credits students with taking the lead in much of the design work: projection backdrops, set, sound and lighting.
A limited number of tickets also are available online for a separate children’s event, Mermaid Storytime, during which children will meet some of the characters and do a craft project. Mermaid Storytimes are set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 and Saturday, April 29 and for 12:30 p.m. before the Sunday, April 23 matinee presentation of “The Little Mermaid.”