This area isn’t anywhere near the ocean, but theatregoers can go under the sea courtesy of Drayton Entertainment’s The Little Mermaid, now on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.
The show, which opened last week, saw the cast cram for three weeks to learn all things mermaid before staging the fantasy musical that will run through the rest of the summer.
Jessica Gallant takes on the lead role of Ariel. An actor for almost a decade, she’s no stranger to the stage with previous characters such as Anne in Anne of Green Gables, Marty in Grease, and Ali in Mamma Mia. This production marks her debut with Drayton Entertainment.
“It was a very, very quick process,” explained Gallant of the rehearsal period. “Because we have to get it up on its feet, and you have to learn all the music, and all of the dances, and memorize your lines, and then you have to get on the stage and do the tech, the lighting, the sets, and then you have to get into your costumes and do all of that together, so it’s like a lot in three weeks. But we managed to do it, and we have a great show.”
Other actors include Al Braatz as Prince Eric, Kelly Holiff as Ursula, and Kevin Aichele as King Triton. Set under the sea, attendees can expect the play to be relatively similar to the plot of the animated 1989 Disney film, with a few new songs and plot twists.
“I thought it was decent,” said Erica Roy, a Cambridge resident who attended the play. “A great starter show for my three-year-old daughter. The idea of the play was similar to the movie, but there were a few new songs and some twists in the plot that were totally different than what the movie portrays. The twists weren’t bad; they were just different.”
Songs featured in the musical from the movie include Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl, and Oscar-winning Best Original Song, Under the Sea.
“There’s a lot of songs, a lot of familiar songs that people will know, but there’s also some brand new songs that Alan Menken wrote just for the live stage musical,” added Gallant. “The end of the musical is different from the movie, just since it’s on stage, but I think people can expect the same characters and things like the ‘dinglehoppers’ and ‘snarfblats’ from the movie.”
The plot is based on the Danish fairytale of the same name written by Hans Christian Andersen. For those who may need a refresher, the story of The Little Mermaid revolves around Ariel, a young mermaid who is fascinated by life on the land. When she falls for a human, Prince Eric, her determination to be on land only grows stronger. Against the wishes of her father, King Triton, she makes a deal with a witch, Ursula, to make it happen.
She is aided by a colourful group of underwater friends, including a stern Caribbean crab, Sebastian, her faithful fish sidekick, Flounder, and a goofy seagull, Scuttle.
“What’s so wonderful about theatre is you can create a full setting of where you are,” explained Gallant, of portraying the underwater scenes. “So when we’re underwater, there’s lots of seaweed, and we have the costumes such as the fish and everything. We’re not really doing a literal swimming type of look which is awesome because we kind of already established as under the sea.”
The show is in St. Jacobs until August 4, after which it transfers to the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend – much closer to the beach – from August 9 to September 2.
“Twenty-nine years after the original film was released, Disney’s The Little Mermaid continues to capture the hearts of children and parents alike,” said Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment. “Summer is the perfect time for families to escape the heat and enjoy this blockbuster musical together.”
The Drayton Entertainment production of The Little Mermaid runs through August 4 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $46 for adults; $27 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the theatre, online at Drayton Entertainment or by calling the box office at (519) 747-7788, toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).