The live musical version of a much-love Disney animated movie opens on the Leon High School stage this Friday evening (7/15).
The original story that inspired the movie and the musical was written when the City of Tallahassee was only a dozen years old. It was written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. It’s since been recast as operas, ballets, movies with human actors, even a Japanese anime TV series that ran for 48 episodes in the 1970s. But arguably the story’s biggest incarnation was the 1989 Disney film. The musical version of this movie is what seasoned Tallahassee director Naomi Rose-Mock is shepherding for this summer’s production at Leon High School.
“This is my fifth show that I’ve done for them as a summer show," Rose-Mock explained. "And this is the first one that has much more intensive dancing and movement. There’s tap dancing in this. They tap dance as well – once they get their legs, obviously – and it’s a much more triple-threat show as opposed to being a more operative show like ‘Phantom of the Opera’, which we did last year.”
The main character in “The Little Mermaid” is the Little Mermaid herself, portrayed in this production by Grace Ubben and Emma Kerr. Why are there two actors for the musical's lead role?
“The talent level of the auditions was very high and we felt we had the depth of talent in the cast to double-cast. And it also allows for vocal rest, because she sings quite a bit and it’s quite a challenging role with a lot of stage time,” Rose-Mock said.
There were also the demands of the story-line, even when it comes to such things as costuming, because there’s the water-bound Ariel and the Ariel who aspires to live on the land. Emma Kerr said her character’s conflict made it a real challenge to bring that individual to life.
“She falls in love with the prince and she sees him and she loves him so much and if she gives her voice away, that’s her mother’s voice that’s part of her and she wants this so bad and she’ll have to give that away and so it’s hard to show off that thought process throughout the show.”
Grace Ubben also sees projecting that innermost struggle as the toughest part of portraying Ariel.
“I have the emotions internally, but it was really hard for me to show it with my face and everything like that. I feel very connected to the character. I feel very similar to Ariel. But it was just really hard to fill the whole stage,” she said.
That hurdle is amplified by the size of that stage and Leon’s vast 900-seat auditorium. But both Ariels agreed the audience will have no trouble discerning the central message of the “Little Mermaid”: “Home isn’t the place you were born; it’s the place you have to discover for yourself,” they said in literal unison.
Director Rose-Mock said it all gets underway this week.
“We officially open July 15th and we run for two weeks. The first week we have Friday, Saturday and a Sunday matinee. So Friday and Saturday night at 7:00, which is a nice early time. The show runs for 2 hours so if people have children you can get them home for bedtime and they won’t be bored during a long show. It’s two hours with intermission and then Sunday it’s 3:30 and then the next week we have a Thursday evening performance also at 7:00.”
For tickets and more information: www.Leonperformingarts.org