By COLLEEN SPARKS, Get Out Staff Writer
Many Gilbert children and teens are hoping to make a splash when they dive into the popular musical “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at Limelight Performing Arts.
A cast of 44 young actors is going to perform the classic love story about Ariel, a mermaid who longs to be with human being Prince Eric in the world above the sea. The kids will take the stage April 10-14 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Audiences can expect to ride a wave of musical and visual stimulation with elaborate and complex costumes and choreography, said Emma England, artist director of Limelight Performing Arts in Gilbert.
“It’s exactly the movie that everyone remembers and loves, but it’s been given new music and moments,” England said. “It’s so much fun. I have known for more than a year that I wanted to direct this show.”
She said the musical features “more songs and meat to the plot” than “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” which Limelight Performing Arts brought to life six years ago.
The audience at Mesa Arts Center can expect the fin-tastic songs from the movie, including “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World.”
“‘Under the Sea’ is like an extended, five-minute experience,” England said. “Three of us are designing costumes. We’ve got puppets. There’s a huge tap number in act two. We’re really making it our own. There’s some really good talent in the show.”
Several young performers will play the roles of water, and dancers will move under and over organza fabric as if they are in the water in one scene.
The children and teens wear Heelys, a brand of shoes with wheels in them, to glide across the stage in the scenes where the characters are in the sea.
The kids are soaking up the choreography, music and lines of the humorous, romantic and sometimes dramatic tale.
Many actors and actresses are taking on multiple roles in the production Ciara Bogan, for example, plays a flying fish, a maid, a sailorette and reed grass while also serving as an understudy for a trumpet fish.
Several got their feet wet in previous musicals.
Brett Small, 18, of Gilbert, plays Prince Eric, the love interest of Ariel, and he is also the assistant stage manager for the show. A high school senior, he takes classes at Highland High School and the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) and is homeschooled.
“I feel really at home here,” Small said. “It’s just a big family group. It’s a really good story. It’s one of those big Disney movies everyone sees. I do like to sing.”
Lina Cappellano, 18, a freshman at Grand Canyon University, plays Ariel in most of the shows of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”
“Ariel’s my favorite Disney princess,” Cappellano said. “I’ve been wanting a theater around me to do ‘The Little Mermaid’ a long time … Ariel’s just an amazing princess. She’s always wanting more. I’m definitely primarily a singer. I like acting, too. ‘The Little Mermaid’s’ a classic.”
She works for Once Upon a Tiara, a children’s entertainment business where fairy tale “princesses” mingle, play games, sign autographs as well as teach dance and etiquette at children’s parties, corporate gatherings and other events.
A psychology major at Grand Canyon University, Cappellano likes the novel touches England brings to the musical.
“Emma’s put a lot of fun, interesting, creative things as she always does,” Cappellano said. “She’s so clever in the way she does things.”
Halle Prusse, 13, of Gilbert, an eighth-grader at South Valley Junior High School, will play Ariel in a Friday morning show for school students that is not open to the public, and on the night of April 13.
“I like how she’s like such, like an adult, but she’s such like a little kid,” Halle said. “The costumes are amazing. The storyline’s like so great.”
Another Gilbert actress, Paige Erdmann, 12, a seventh-grader at Chandler Preparatory Academy, plays Flotsam, who is an eel, performs as a water dancer and serves as an understudy for Sebastian, a crab.
“I like how it’s very realistic,” Paige said. “She’s (Ariel) a teenager. She wants stuff. I always said I wanted to be a mermaid when I grow up. I specifically like dancing the most.”
Her friend, Baylee Horvath, 10, a fifth-grader at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran School, plays Jetsam, an eel, and performs as a water dancer. She is also the understudy for Scuttle, a bird.
“The one thing I really like is after all these rehearsals we all come together as one group,” Baylee said. “I love the music. This is especially challenging because of the water and tapping. I just love musical theater in general. I started dancing when I was 2.”
She said one challenge is manipulating puppets while moving on the Heelys.
Olivia Gregory, 10, of Gilbert, a fourth-grader at Greenfield Elementary School, portrays a clam, a chef, a frog and tap-dances as a member of the ensemble.
“I like the music,” Olivia said. “I think it’s fun to dance.”
She said she also really likes the costumes and how all the “different parts and pieces” fit together in the musical. It’s her first time performing at Limelight and she said the other youths are “nice and involving.”
Olivia Timothy, 14, of Gilbert, a freshman at Campo Verde High School, enjoys playing the evil witch Ursula in the shows.
“It has fabulous music,” Olivia said. “The music is very alive when it needs to be alive and very creepy and dreadful when it needs to be.”
Playing a villain is “very fun,” she said, adding “It’s very addictive. You feel the sense of power. I can feel the energy.”
Shayna Padjen, 17, is assistant choreographer for the musical.
Peyton Shoffner, 11, also of Gilbert, a sixth-grader at Valley Christian Junior High, plays Flounder, a fish, in the musical.
“It’s really fun because I’ve been here for a while so I have a lot of friends here,” Shoffner said. “I love acting and singing.”
She said she also thinks it is a “really cute concept” how Flounder, in this version of the musical, is only 3 years old, but he has a crush on Ariel.
Another East Valley teen, Shayna Padjen, 17, of Gilbert, a junior at Campo Verde High School, is assistant choreographer for the musical.
Adults play big roles in directing the sea life in the musical. The music director and co-director for “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” is Corinne Walker and Wendy Crawford is the stage manager.
Limelight Performing Arts rehearses for its shows at Studio 3 Performing Arts, which is at 511 W. Guadalupe Road in Gilbert.
Studio 3 is the business that provides lessons in acting, singing, dance, musical theater and musical instruments.
Limelight is a nonprofit youth theater that holds its shows’ rehearsals at Studio 3, but all youths are encouraged to audition and participate in Limelight production.