‘Little Mermaid’ takes to stage at Potter Auditorium
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 12:49 PM
The cast of WET's "The Little Mermaid" rehearses scenes from the play, featuring this scene accompanied by the Disney original song, "Kiss the Girl."
Wits’ End Theatre (WET) will present “The Little Mermaid,” the Disney classic, for its Western Days production, which continues this weekend at the newly-renovated Potter Auditorium.
“The show itself is very fun! It’s super high-energy, and the characters just jump out at you. There are so many people who love ‘The Little Mermaid’, and everyone who came out to be in the show is very into this story and loves the characters. The story is the same one you remember, with all the songs you love, and we have a very committed cast,” stated director Sam Gibson.
WET had great results with “Cinderella” last year, and since the rights to “The Little Mermaid” just became available, “We were psyched to jump on the chance to produce it,” said Gibson. “There haven’t been many community theater productions.”
Rehearsals began in mid-June, and the cast is onstage five nights a week, sometimes until the fireflies have come out.
“It’s a large production and it requires a lot of hard work by every single person involved,” said Gibson. “There are no small jobs in this show.”
Mariya Maragos, who portrayed Cinderella in last year’s production, returns to the stage as mermaid Ariel, Mitch Gibson is Sebastian, Randy Wilson debuts in his first-ever role as an animal while performing the part of Scuttle the Seagull, William Hoeltzle is Flounder, Joe Chase brings on the authority of the sea as King Triton, Nathaniel Chase charms as Prince Eric, Alex Beerling is Grimsby, Lisa Modry glides and slithers as Ursula who is the great dark queen of the deep, Jack Wood is Flotsam and Isaiah Redalan is Jetsam, Elizabeth Fuglestad is Aquata, Kyanne Hilger appears as Allana, Kayla Nelson takes the stage as Arista, Annalise Shupe performs as Atina, Megan Kleven is Andrina, Lauren Mueller is Adella, Hannah Bothun becomes Windward and Elizabeth Schieffelbein is Leeward, and Luke Langseth rounds out the cast as Chef Louis and Pilot.
The ensemble is comprised of Ethan Peter, Steve Strickler, Stephanie Copeman, Catharine McCook, Rachel Schieffelbein, Carrie Strand and Kayla Mabe, while the mini ensemble includes Chloe Berg, Rebecca Copeman, Emilie Copeman, Javier Berg, Johnny Schieffelbein and Henry Worden.
Vicki Dietz and Joan Verdegan are the main set builders, and the Manahan family, as always, has been a big help as well, noted Gibson. Emma Strand is serving as stage manager this year, and she’s been helping with set crew.
“Our stage is crazy,” exclaimed Gibson. “The set is so pretty and we have lots of gorgeous artwork on the stage.”
Debra Collum and Joan Verdegan are head costume designers, along with a list of seamstresses. Some pieces are ordered, but most of them are handmade.
Gibson is pleased that the production includes opportunities to showcase some of the cast members’ musical talents. There are some new songs, in addition to the classics, and some characters are brought forward a little more. There are all of the same soloists from the movie – Ariel, Ursula, Sebastian – but with the new songs, the audience will get to hear some more people sing, such as Eric, Triton, Scuttle, Flounder and Ariel’s sisters, who all have solo moments.
Music director Robyn Loewen observed that the show features a live orchestra, as is tradition in WET productions.
“Although very few community theaters have a live pit orchestra, we are committed to showcasing the talents of area musicians and enhancing the overall entertainment aspect of our productions,” she said. “We have a 10-member orchestra this year, including keyboards, brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion. The orchestra has only a few rehearsals with the cast, so we have to put things together very quickly. The Potter Auditorium renovation project included construction of an actual recessed orchestra pit, which will create better sight lines for the audience and better sound balance between the singers onstage and the orchestra.”
She is the leader of the orchestra that gets to play the score of “The Little Mermaid,” which has many iconic songs that are very well known to fans of Ariel, such as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” In addition, there were several new numbers that were written just for the Broadway musical version, and some of these have quickly become favorites of the cast.
“Our talented ensemble members are very busy this year because each of them plays numerous roles during the show. This takes advantage of their singing and dancing skills, but also makes for some quick costume changes backstage,” said Loewen. “Having a strong ensemble makes the large group numbers very exciting, with fun choreography and great singing. There are many styles of music in the show, from beautiful ballads to calypso and swing. All ages will enjoy songs both familiar and new.”
Gibson acknowledged how much time her cast and the orchestra have invested in the production, noting they are all “very hard-working and extremely talented. This summer has been tough with the theater being worked on, so they’ve been very flexible in adapting to our changing environment. Every aspect of the show has been worked on so much that we hope our audiences like it all. It’s been one of Wits’ Ends’ biggest undertakings. Everything about this has been a challenge, but one that we are overcoming at every turn. The costumes are bigger, the set is bigger, the cast is big, there is a lot of dancing. It has been an adventure.”
Producer Rachel Schieffelbein concurred, saying, “We’re taking a whole under-the-sea world and putting it on stage at Potter. It’s not easy – it’s definitely a challenge, but one we’re excited to take on.”
Gibson hopes that the newly-renovated Potter Auditorium is filled with people who grew up having watched “The Little Mermaid” or are being told the story for the first time.
“For anyone who loved the movie, we’re hoping to bring them a little nostalgia, and bring a little magic to some kids’ lives,” she said. “It’s great for everyone in the family…there’s a reason it’s a Disney classic!”
Schieffelbein agreed. “If you’re a fan of Disney, or grew up with ‘The Little Mermaid,’ you definitely want to see this show,” she said. “It has all that Disney magic, and will be a wonderful experience. This is an incredibly fun show. The choreography, the music…it’s like a big party.”
WET’s performances of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” opened at Potter Auditorium in the Chatfield Center for the Arts last week and continues Thursday, Aug. 11, and Friday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. Main floor reserved seats are $15 and balcony seats, $12. Tickets are available online at witsendtheatre.org, or at the CCA box office. Box office hours are Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to noon. The box office will also be open an hour before the show for each performance.