By Kyle Poluyko
In a magical kingdom beneath the sea, the beautiful young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above. Continuing to raise the bar for high school musical theatre in Thunder Bay, St. Patrick High School will create those worlds this May with its full production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved tale and the classic 1989 animated film, The Little Mermaid features the music of Academy Award-winner Alan Menkin, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, with a book by Doug Wright. The production opened on Broadway in 2009 for a 17-month run before embarking on a life in regional and international theatre.
Following their 2014 production of The Wizard of Oz was going to be a challenge for directors Patricia Del Paggio and Dan Puiatti. “A team of us sits down and we go through the pros and cons of every musical,” says Del Paggio. “We look at ones that are available and will bring in a great audience.” From there, everything from the musical score to costumes, props, and scenery demands are considered.
A troupe of 50 talented performers requires that this production of The Little Mermaid is double-cast, meaning that all characters are portrayed by two actors, alternating at each performance. Danny Johnson, whose collaboration with St. Pats theatre reaches back to the 1992 production of Jesus Christ Superstar for which he was brought aboard as principal keyboardist, returns to serve as musical director for this production as he did with Oz, with an orchestra featuring members of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.
The production has called on the talents of numerous school departments to create a theatrical spectacle, including the technology department, which has constructed the sets, while the visual arts team has painstakingly painted props and scenery that will reach out into the auditorium itself.
Mindful of the legacy of high-calibre musical productions at St. Pats, Del Paggio remains grounded in her hopes for audiences. “We want people to enjoy the experience. We want them to feel good when they leave. We hope everyone recognises the evolution of the characters throughout, that everyone can find a voice, and the message that dreams are reachable.”
The Little Mermaid runs May 9 -14 at 7PM at Selkirk Auditorium. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds are going to the Regional Food Distribution Association of Northwestern Ontario. For tickets and more information call 623-5218.