In the interest of full disclosure, I need to admit that I was not overly thrilled about the decision to preform the Disney-fied stage version of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid." In fact, I thought it would look tragically cheesy compared to the animated fantasy-land created with incredible sets, costuming, lighting, and special effects made famous by the award-winning Broadway show.
I was wrong. Despite graduating a slew of talented upper-classmen since the last show, the Elvis-themed "All Shook Up!", and having to include the elementary section of the school in the show - mostly as tiny dancing fish and other marine life - the show has suddenly come together in a pleasantly surprising way.
As evidenced by the sheer fact that I've not mentioned a single thing about this musical even being a part of my life, the tides have literally changed. (Sorry, I couldn't help it; there may be more puns ahead.) This year I am serving as the director of acting, alongside the two music teachers who are handling the choir/soloists and the production, respectively, and the dance teacher, who has been in charge of choreography. Another new elementary teacher this year has been assisting me with the acting direction as well as advising the set design. It has been a true team effort. Since this show involves the entire school, the budget is slightly bigger and we've been able to hire an outside lighting and sound crew - complete with strobe lights and smoke machine - and a professional costumer.
Even with all the special visual effects, intricate head-pieces, and functioning microphones, the real stars have been the actors who, before this show, had little to no stage/musical experience. Our returning senior theatre-geek veteran has been indispensable as Sebastian the crab, as well as serving as student-director. The roles of Prince Eric, Scuttle, Ursula, and her eels have also been impressive for their greenness on stage.
Today at our general all-cast technical rehearsal, however, I was literally brought to tears by Ariel. This is a senior girl who is not necessarily shy, but not anyone you would expect having any desire be on stage singing a solo, let alone carry a musical by playing the iconic title role. She has been giving strong performances every rehearsal, takes direction well, and never makes waves. (You were warned...) This afternoon, while she took the stage, singing "Part of Your World," gently holding her dinglehopper (fork), lit in a soft blue spotlight, I saw the The Little Mermaid as she was and knew, finally, we had arrived...under the sea.