Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't Miss Roosevelt High School's Performance Of "The Little Mermaid" This Week

Abby Jernberg

Roosevelt High School Drama students will be presenting Disney's musical,The Little Mermaid, starting tomorrow through Sunday with seven shows in four days, including three matinees.

Laurelhurst's Abby Jernberg will be performing as Ariel in several shows. She has grown up in the neighborhood, attended Laurelhurst Elementary School, and has been a lifeguard at the Beach Club.   

Elliott Moore, a high school junior, and also long time Laurelhurst resident and Laurelhurst Elementary alum, also has a lead role in the production. 

Roosevelt High School, which has the only full time drama program in the Seattle School District, was one of a few high schools across the country chosen by Disney to "pilot" the high school version of the musical, a Roosevelt parent told the Blog staff.

Ruben Van Kempen, long time Theater Director, recently announced his retirement on Instagram, saying "After 38 years of public education, I have decided to join my wife, Myrnie, in retirement starting this June."

The Roosevelt News recently printed this article: 
In 2015, only five high schools in the United States will be allowed to perform Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Roosevelt will be one of them.
Two years ago, the Walt Disney company conducted a nationwide search for high schools to perform a stage adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  
Ruben VanKempen, Roosevelt’s theater director, applied to perform the show in September 2013. Eight months later, VanKempen received an email from Disney Theatrical informing him that Roosevelt had been chosen to perform The Little Mermaid. 
Roosevelt’s drama department has performed stage adaptations of other Disney musicals over the years, such as 2013’s Beauty and the Beast and 2015’s upcoming Mary Poppins.  However, March 4th will be the drama department’s first production of The Little Mermaid.  
Student actors were required to attend a single audition in order to be considered for both The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins. Auditioning performers had to prepare and present 16 bars of a song from a published musical. Each actor was also required to learn two different dance combos on the day of the auditions.  
In the end, two different actresses were cast as the titular mermaid: seniors Abby Jernberg and Bay Loovis. Loovis says that her portrayal of Ariel will deviate from the film version. “I’m trying to stay fairly true to the movie, but I’m planning on making her more torn between her family and her own wants and needs. I feel like in the movie she kind of leaves her family without a second thought, and that doesn’t seem very realistic to me,” says Loovis. Jernberg adds that Ariel’s backstory is fleshed out more in the stage version, with greater emphasis placed on her mother’s death.  
Roosevelt’s production of The Little Mermaid diverges from the source film in other significant ways. “In general, whenever they make a musical out of a movie, there aren’t enough songs in the movie to make a full-length production,” explains Jernberg. The stage adaptation of Mermaid includes new musical numbers, such as “Her Voice,” sung by Prince Eric, and “If Only,” a quartet with Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and King Triton. Loovis also teases that the second act of the play is “pretty different from the movie,” but declines to elaborate.  
According to VanKempen, the biggest challenge of doing Mermaid on the Roosevelt stage is convincing audiences that the characters are underwater. Unlike last years’ winter production, The Grapes of Wrath, The Little Mermaid will not feature any water effects. Instead, hanging “kelp” and special lighting arrangements will be used to simulate the undersea environment. 
The Mermaid cast rehearses every day for between two and three hours after school, although rehearsals will eventually go until 8:00 at night (“That’s going to be tiring to say the least,” quips one cast member). VanKempen says that the cast’s rehearsal time will expand as props, costumes and other elements are incorporated into the production. “We’re trying to get it all done,” he explains.

Tickets are available for purchase here or at the door of the school (1410 NE 66th Street).
Show dates are: 
March 4 - 7:30pm 
March 5 - 3:30pm, 7:30pm. 
March 6 - 3:30pm, 7:30pm 
March 7 - 2:30pm, 7:30pm

(photo courtesy of The Roosevelt News)

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