Theater: ’The Little Mermaid’ an Undersea Treasure
Look around the Woodcrest Christian upper campus during early springtime and you’ll see a lot of transformations taking place. The landscape is waking from its winter slumber with trees and flowers beginning to bloom. Winter sports teams are wrapping up, and Spring teams are forming. The Royals Pavilion—which only weeks ago was packed with Royals fans cheering our Varsity Girls Basketball team through their playoff games—is now a hustle and bustle of actors, cast members, and crews converting the court into a fantastic stage and theater. The preparations are impressive as the WCS Drama Department brings to us The Little Mermaid and ultimately, the transformation of Ariel from mermaid to human.
“My favorite part about being in drama is when you’re performing and the audience laughs and reacts to what you’re doing on stage. It’s really fun.” —8th grader Soren Sheffer in the roles of various sea creatures
Opening to a sold out crowd of 277 people on Friday, March 6th, the first performance of The Little Mermaid was a splashing success! Cast members, many dressed as sea creatures including seahorses, jelly fish, starfish and crabs, recreated Disney’s charming 1989 animated movie of the same title. This classic tale was brought to life both above and under the sea though a variety of incredible talent, costumes, set design, and technical creativity.
Taking the audience “under the sea” from the moment they walked into the Pavilion was one of Director Teresa Bickett’s goals for the show. “I wanted the overall set design to envelope the audience even in their seats so we hung colorful streamers and fish decorations from the ceiling. When the lights are set just right, the decor appears to be floating above the audience’s head adding to the feeling that they are under the sea,” she says.
While the decor certainly contributes to the underwater theme, it’s the main stage set that attracts most of the attention. Standing at 15’ tall and 20’ wide, the helm of a sailing ship with three different levels and two tiers of sails creates a stunning backdrop. Built by hand from WCS parent Rob Pendleton, the ship is an iconic creation for the play. “It’s quite impressive when you see a dozen cast members in sailor’s costumes singing and dancing in unison on each of the steps with one of the lead characters, Prince Eric (Avery Atchison) commanding the ship,” says Ms. Bickett.
“I only listened to the original song ‘Pour Unfortunate Soul’ once and then I spent hours rehearsing in front of a mirror both saying and singing my lines to really try to make them my own and to get in to the Ursula character.” —Sophomore Audrey Kell in the role of Ursula
Yet the real challenge in set design was creating an underwater experience where the audience could imagine mermaids and sea creatures swimming throughout. “It was exciting and at times very difficult to come up with props and sets for the scenes where Ariel and the other fish and merpeople are underwater,” says Ms. Bickett. “We had some incredible rock formations built including an amazing grotto complete with seaweed and sea urchins, and painted pieces of coral which helped create this underwater world. But what took it over the top was the 14,000k rear projector we installed to help enhance the set,” she says. This animated projection screen for both under and above the sea scenes enabled parts such as ‘Part of Your World’ in Ariel’s grotto to come to life. “There is animated movement of water and bubbles, along with deep sea images that helped to create this underwater feeling,” says Ms. Bickett. “And when the scenes move on land, the screen projects a castle and a beach, a crackling fireplace inside the castle kitchen and more,” she says.
With such a unique set, the show really shines once the talent hits the stage. And this year, the talent of our WCS students stunned audiences. Performing in theater for the first time, senior Avery Atchison took on the role of Prince Eric which took an extra dose of effort to learn the lines, dances, and songs for the show when his role as an athlete on the WCS Varsity Soccer team went deep into playoffs and overlapped practices with rehearsals. “It was pretty hard during soccer season, I had to learn a lot of the lines and songs at home, and spend rehearsals practicing the dancing,” he says. “I think the most challenging part though was all the scenes with Ariel (played by Sydni Miller) when she can’t speak. It was tough dancing and singing every line to the song ‘One Step Closer’ when your partner can’t react with any sound,” he explains.
Another amazing supporting role was that of Ursula played by sophomore Audrey Kell. Waltzing in her lair under the sea in a dramatic octopus-like costume, the role of Ursula pushed Audrey outside of her comfort zone. “The hardest part was trying to be mean,” she laughs. “Backstage, I really had to practice getting into character so I could come out on stage in Ursula’s mindset,” she says. Not only did Audrey successfully portray Ursula, but her rendition of the song ‘Poor Unfortunate Soul’ was a definite crowd-pleaser. The high and low pitches of Ursula’s monologue and Audrey’s powerful voice were the exact characteristics needed for such a strong character. “I told Audrey she could go on Broadway today with the way she played that role,” smiles Ms. Bickett.
While there were many potential students interested in playing the lead role of Ariel, casting came pretty naturally for Ms. Bickett. “It just seems this role was made for Sydni,” she says. Senior Sydni Miller is no stranger to the stage. She has been in every drama production (two per year) since she was in 8th grade. From her first role as a flapper girl in Rundown Abbey to a feather duster in Beauty and the Beast to a strong supporting role as Helen Keller’s mother in The Miracle Worker, plus many other pertinent roles, Sydni seemed to fit the mold perfectly as Ariel. “It’s bittersweet for this to be my final performance at WCS, but I’m so thankful to go out on such a high note as Ariel. The character of Ariel is so happy and positive, and I feel like I’m very similar to her so it wasn’t very difficult to get into character,” says Sydni. Loving the scenes of ‘Positoovity’ and ‘One Step Closer,’ Sydni’s love for theater runs deep. “I’m so thankful to Ms. Bickett and Mrs. Stephanie for their help in making me a better actress. They know how to push me and help me commit and develop each role I’ve had. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says. And The Little Mermaid just wouldn’t be the beloved Disney show that it is without the zany antics of popular characters such as Sebastian (played by freshman Micah Suk in his first starring role), Chef Louis (played by Garrett Haun, best known for his role as Tevye in last year’s Spring musical Fiddler on the Roof), Scuttle (quintessentially performed by Daniel Cendejas), and Flounder (starring 6th grader Andrew Duffey).
“The Jamaican-like accent of my character Sebastian was definitely the most challenging for me. Since before Christmas break when we got our lines, I would practice the accent all the time, as much as I could. I’m pretty sure I drove my parents crazy.” —Freshman Micah Suk in the role of Sebastian
And who are we kidding, every character in The Little Mermaid remains beloved after so many generations of audiences…including Ursula’s sidekicks Flotsam (played by Michael Pendleton) and Jetsam (played by Ethan Jimenez) who could both be seen “slithering underwater” on stage wearing hybrid shoe/skate Heelys. And the flamboyant mersisters each full of personality (played by Eme beaumont, Chloe Davis, Sydney Reed, Presley Emig, Rachel Campbell, and Gwen Valerio). Or the fatherly roles of King Triton (played Haydn Smith) and Prince Eric’s guardian Grimsby (played by Elijah Astorga), along with multiple other colorful character princesses, maids, chefs, heralds, sailors, birds, and sea creatures that make The Little Mermaid what we all know and love.
With over 100 colorful costumes, a cast and crew of 82 students made up of 2nd-12th graders, and the outstanding help of Music Director Ben Halsne, Choreographer Stephanie Gorton, and help from many other parents and friends of WCS with backstage, lighting, set design, ticketing, and more, it’s no wonder The Little Mermaid was a true treasure from the opening to the final ovation.
The show’s final weekend is March 12, 13, and 14, with limited seating still available online and at the door. Get more information about The Little Mermaid.
Interested in future WCS Drama productions? Stay tuned for upcoming productions here.