A Preview of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid”

An early look at what preparation is being done on the RRPA Company’s April production, The Little Mermaid.

Mitesh Shrestha, Staff Writer

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A crowd of drama students form in their director’s room around three people as they shuffle around preparing to climb the silk fabrics that extend from the ceiling. As they begin climbing the silk rope, the crowd watches in amazement as the acrobats use their four month long training to soar through the room. They depend solely on that training as they wrap the silk around them attempting to fly, and enhance the feeling that you’re under the sea; a feeling audiences will be experience in RRPA’s latest production, The Little Mermaid.

The musical itself follows the plot of the classic love story, Disney’s the Little Mermaid, in which Ariel, the daughter of the ruler of the sea, wants to pursue the human Prince Eric, and does so by bargaining with the sea witch, Ursula. When the bargain isn’t what it seems, Ariel and her friends return to restore order under the sea.

Aerial silks are only one aspect that drama director Anthony Cimino-Johnson, is adding to further enhance the setting of the musical. “We’re trying to make the audience feel immersed in water, so we have these really cool water lights that light the whole auditorium, we also have 28ft black light whale puppet, and all these fish puppets that go out to the audience, so there’s a lot of cool stuff that goes on,” Cimino-Johnson said.

In addition to incredible aesthetics and choreography, orchestra director Kiersten Dickenson, and chorus director Jordan Markwood will assist the musical. The orchestra, led by Kiersten Dickenson will provide live music complimenting the major songs, and setting the mood for certain dialogue. The Little Mermaid will be the second production the orchestra has worked on, but for Dickenson it’s a much different experience the second time around. “We are in much better place than we were last year, we have experienced players who’ve played in a pit orchestra, which is very different than just playing in a regular orchestra. We have experience, we have talent, we have commitment, which is big difference, because people aren’t being pulled in different directions to perform these pieces,” Dickenson said.

For Jordan Markwood, this is also his second time assisting the drama department developing the vocals of cast members. “When we first start rehearsals we have separate vocal rehearsals, walking rehearsals, and dance rehearsals, and we’re now getting to the point where we’re running the show all together, so they have to sing, dance, move, act at the same time, and Ms. Hess, Mr. CJ, and I all give them feedback to help them improve,” Markwood said.

The creation and practice of this immense production that features more choreography and more aesthetics than past productions, has required over a year to prepare for. In this time, the cast and their director Cimino-Johnson have faced numerous challenges.

“First, when you’re working with 125 kids, you’re working with 125 different schedules. We have more choreography in this show than last year, so there’s been lots and lots of choreography and dance rehearsals; we’re using 16 microphones all at the same time, lots of sound effects, so there’s lots of tech involved, and with all of this, we have to find to work on our other productions,” Cimino-Johnson said.

Laila Gallant, or Ariel in the production, has had her own share of challenges. “Learning all my lines, which for me is pretty much the entire script has been difficult. The If Only (main song) quartet, getting the timing right for that has been very difficult, and I also had to dye my hair red for this; that was a challenge,” Gallant said.

Two weeks out from the premiere of their production, Cimino Johnson and his cast of 125 add the finishing touches, and reflect on how special this production has been. “It’s been special to see such a large group of students come together, and tell a single story that provides hope and addresses issues such as acceptance, self-acceptance, and self-love,” Cimino-Johnson said. RRPA’s production of Disney’s the Little Mermaid will premiere April 8th at 7 P.M.

Showing off sophomore Noam Denenberg to the other members of the upcoming Little Mermaid production, is English teacher and choreographer Rebekah Hess. Hess was assisting Denenberg to practice aerial silks, in which the acrobat uses only a suspended fabric to perform aerial acrobatics. Photo by Mitesh Shrestha.

Showing off sophomore Noam Denenberg to the other members of the upcoming Little Mermaid production, is English teacher and choreographer Rebekah Hess. Hess was assisting Denenberg to practice aerial silks, in which the acrobat uses only a suspended fabric to perform aerial acrobatics. Photo by Mitesh Shrestha.

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A Preview of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid”