Get ready to travel fathoms below for a visit with Ariel, Sebastian and friends.
Vero Voce School of Performing Arts in St. Charles presents Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” Feb. 8-16. The musical is adapted from the 2008 Broadway production and tells the familiar tale of mermaid Ariel, who longs to leave her ocean home and live her life on land. In the junior production, all of the adult roles are portrayed by children.
“It’s going to be very good,” said David M. Rodriguez, theatrical artistic director at Vero Voce and director of the musical. “This is the most challenging show I’ve worked on before, because most of the shows that I have directed have been specifically black box style of shows.
“At Vero Voce, what we’ve done for this show, because it does require a bigger stage, we’ve actually flipped the stage 90 degrees so it runs the length of the theater,” he said. “It gives us about 20 more feet.”
The show also marks the first time the school is renting costumes instead of supplying its own, he said.
Vero Voce’s production features a “small, but mighty cast” of about 20 students, ranging in age from six to 16. Typically “Little Mermaid” productions feature a much larger cast, Rodriguez said.
“I’d rather have 20 people knowing they are going to give 110 percent, and knowing that they are going to be seen,” Rodriguez said. “I make sure that everybody is getting equal attention, that everybody is learning and that everybody is having fun.”
For instance, the students that portray Ariel’s sisters play multiple roles throughout the show.
“They’re having a lot of fun expressing their artistic freedom to create six significantly different characters,” he said.
Rodriguez said this production is the “first time I’m working on a show with expectations. People are coming to see Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid.’” Whereas all the shows I’ve done in the past, myself and the kids have had the artistic freedom (to say) let’s make this our show.”
In previous children’s shows at Vero Voce, including the recent production of “Pocahontas,” the cast would add jokes or comments in some places to appeal to the older members of the audience as well.
“I like to add a more adult sense of humor. I don’t mean ‘R’ rated, just jokes for the parents,” Rodriguez said.
But with audience members expecting to see “The Little Mermaid” as they know it with familiar songs like “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World,” they are not making many changes, he said.
“As much as I want to, we’re not going to. We are adding little things here and there, little jokes, but we’re not taking the liberties we normally do,” he said. “There are jokes in there. We’re adding references to other Disney franchises. We have a quick ‘Finding Nemo’ reference, which is logical to me, because if you’re going to go under the sea, Nemo is under there as well. Stuff like that.
“A lot of places just tell them what to do and they don’t have the freedom to express themselves artistically, and that’s really important to me so they can grow and find out what kind of artist they are,” he said. “Some of these kids I can totally see being on ‘Saturday Night Live’ one day, or some of these other actors I can see winning awards if they really go for it. I really feel our school reinforces that. There are a lot of talented people in this area.”