PHS Spectacle Theatre presents: The Little Mermaid

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photo by Aaron Wu

PHS Spectacle Theatre, in conjunction with the drama department, will be taking a dive under the sea from March 30 to April 1 for their production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

“Every five years we do a show that is child friendly. Now five years later, it’s The Little Mermaid,” said Patricia Wray, drama teacher and Spectacle Theatre supervisor. Five years ago it was Beauty and the Beast, and five years before that, The Wizard of Oz.

The musical originates from Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, but has evolved over the years into a more light-hearted story. In the original fairytale, the story takes a dark turn at the end when the title character is presented with the choice to kill her prince after he marries another woman, or to face death herself for failing to seduce him. However, she can’t bring herself to kill him, and instead dissolves into the sea foam at dawn’s rise when her contract when the sea witch ends. PHS’ version is instead based on the 1989 Disney movie of the same name, with additional material specifically added for the Broadway show.

Rehearsal has been especially busy for the spring musical, as cast members work hard to prepare a dazzling show.

“We usually have singing rehearsals on Wednesdays, and we have choreography rehearsals on Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays. We’re working nonstop in class and even outside of school it’s a nonstop effort for everyone,” said Ella Shatzky ’19, who plays Flounder, the playful, piscine companion of Ariel.

Even with the hard work of all of the cast members, there have been a couple of bumps along the way. For one, the cast lost a week of rehearsal for the PHS Choir tour to Spain in February.Furthermore, the following week, choreographer Enrique Brown had to take a leave of absence for a planned trip. Luckily, this didn’t interfere with the overall rehearsal process as much as predicted.

“We knew that this was happening so the only thing that I was concerned about was that they’d come back sick and we would lose more time,” said Wray.

A larger issue that was present in terms of preparing for the musical performance was the amount of work that would be needed to create the musical’s physical set. The Little Mermaid is a Disney musical, so there is a special focus on spectacle. To build the large set, many members of the cast devoted hours outside of schedule rehearsal.

Otherwise, rehearsals ran relatively smoothly, and the cast is well-prepared for its opening night performance.

Part of the reason that Ms. Wray chose have The Little Mermaid be the spring musical was in thought of choreographer Enrique Brown.

“I sort of thought about this musical because of him,” said Wray. “Because he would know it inside and out,having danced in the show.”

Brown performed in the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid as Oklahoma! and Fiddler on the Roof. This is his third consecutive year of choreographing for PHS, having previously done Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

With a professional like Brown choreographing The Little Mermaid, the cast of the musical are continuously challenged to do their best.

“Enrique is a fantastic choreographer and working with him gives you a really great sense of what Broadway choreography feels like. It’s a fast paced learning environment that you have to adapt to in order to keep up. Especially keeping up with everything he’s throwing at you because he demands a very high level of focus and performance,” said Gus Binnie ’17, who plays Prince Eric.

The cast hopes that the audience turnout will resemble that of Beauty and the Beast and The Wizard of Oz, and has prepared well in the event that it does.

“Mr. Lenihan, who is the art supervisor for the high school and JW, said that he just ordered tickets for the show and the theatre holds 750 [people]. Usually we don’t order that many because it’s not totally full. He just said, ‘I’m getting 750 for each night. Because that’s what we had with Beauty and the Beast and the Wizard of Oz.’ We had little kids sitting in the aisles ‘cause the cast would come down the isles and they wanted to be there and grab their legs when they came down. So that’s part of the joy of doing the show for these little children,” said Wray.

After months of hard work, PHS Spectacle Theatre is excited for the community to witness the fruits of their labor.

“People should come see it because it’s a showcase that represents everything that’s so great about PHS, demonstrating variety available at our school as well as the talents of the wonderful cast,” said Binnie.

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