Northeast High School will take audiences under the sea for its fall production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which opens November 22 and continues for four weekend performances.
The story is one audiences have come to know and love. Ariel, a young mermaid who is fascinated with the human world and its treasures, embarks on a journey to earn legs and the love of a handsome prince. Though mostly true to the original Broadway production, the show will feature a few extra songs.
“The Little Mermaid” has ample student involvement, with teens being encouraged to take leadership positions. The show’s stage crew is mostly run by the student stage manager, senior Amber Coakley. The stage crew is comprised of about 30 students who are responsible for a myriad of jobs to help the show run smoothly.
“They run the sound, they run the lights, they move the scenery,” said volunteer Karen MacFie.
The cast comprises 40 students, 12 of which are seniors including the two lead actors playing Ariel and Prince Eric, Lillie Jewell and Zach Demers, respectively.
Demers and Jewell are both heavily involved in the music program at Northeast, and neither of them are strangers to their parts. Demers and Jewell both played the same characters alongside each other in their fifth-grade production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.” at Sunset Elementary. Being in these roles again has them looking back on their first go-around.
“We graduated elementary school together having these same parts,” Jewell said. “We have pictures from it, and now we’re graduating high school together doing the same parts.”
Demers reflected on how far he’s come since his first production.
“The last time I played this role, that was the first time I had done any kind of [role like this],” Demers said. “This was [my] first ‘feet-first, dive-into-the-deep-end’ kind of thing … I was a mess. I had no idea what was going on, and now I have had many years to refine and build, and I think I’m in a very good place now to really show off what I can do.”
Demers and Jewell both remarked that they have been watching videos of their first production together.
“It’s just funny to go back and watch the old days and then compare it to now,” Demers said.
The leads also mentioned the show has challenged them in many ways, including time management and the balance between acting with lines and acting without them.
“In act two, Ariel doesn’t talk,” Jewell said. “Zach has to carry the whole thing, and even though its sounds easy for me, I still have to rely on my facial expressions. I still have to act.”
The other struggle falls into a different category.
“Back in elementary school, they didn’t really have us play the romantic dynamic between Eric and Ariel, but now everyone is on us about it,” Jewell said.
MacFie said, “They’re friends. It’s hard for them to look lovingly at each other because their buddies. They’re really having to reach outside of their comfort zone and act.”
Though there have been struggles, the students see positives in working on the show – making new friends and getting to experience the talent of others.
“It’s really cool because [some of the cast are] people I wouldn’t normally talk to because they are underclassmen, but they’re really funny, and it’s nice to get to know them,” Jewell said.
Demers agreed, saying, “It’s a really cool dynamic having people you’ve never met before, and then people you’ve been with your whole life practically.”
The musicals at Northeast have participation from students who aren’t regularly involved, and for some, it’s their first show.
“I think that people are going to be impressed by [our cast], and I think it’s really cool to know that it’s their first time doing [a musical] with us,” Jewell said. “[Novalle Allen], who plays Ursula, she’s done one-acts before, but this is her first musical, at least with us, and she’s doing awesome.”
MacFie noted that Allen has been doing an “incredible job.”
“I’m like, ‘Where has she been hiding for the past three years,’” MacFie said.
MacFie also commented on the comradery of the group.
“When you work this closely together to put on a show, and you have to depend on the other people … they become like family,” MacFie said.
Both stars hope that people come to enjoy the experience of the show.
“I feel like going to musical theater is just a magical experience,” Jewell said. “It’s so amazing just to see. And you always have to think about all the work that went into it to create it. It’s a magical experience. Everyone should participate in it. Everyone should go to a show.”
Demers said, “I feel like people should really come out because we’re all putting in a ton of work and really want this show to be good. We’d love it if everyone came out and appreciated that work.”