By Kyle Poluyko
With crustaceans, urchins, sea witches and princes abound, St. Patrick High School’s dazzling production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid – which ran May 9 through 14 – drew six nights of sold-out crowds to Selkirk Auditorium, raising a staggering $40,000 for the RFDA.
A cast of fifty – with five actors alternating in principal roles – took audiences beneath the waves in this charming and visually stimulating stage production of the classic Disney tale. Ariel (Adriana Belluz-Gerolami and Jodie Stares) is a young mermaid with a dream of breaking the surface and being where the people are. She falls for Prince Eric (Alex Decicco and Xander Scriver), a young sailor with a royal future. Ariel is often flanked by Flounder (Abby Foulds and Amy Prochnicki), the love-struck and panicky tropical fish, a plucky seagull named Scuttle (Paige Perrons and Hailey Perrault), and Sebastian (Jacob Gazzola), the frustrated crab with Caribbean flair. Forbidden to breach the surface by her her father King Triton (Hudson Morash), Ariel turns to the sea witch Ursula (Nicki Miniely and Riley Yesno). Again, a remarkably large ensemble filled numerous supporting roles.
Broadway stage adaptations of Disney animations are no small task for actors and singers. The Broadway versions are always written in higher, more demanding keys with additional material written written especially for the stage. Belluz-Gerolami and Stares nicely captured Ariel’s determination, naivete and innocence with authentic characterizations and pretty, capable voices. Decicco and Scriver brought different interpretations to the role of Prince Eric, making admirable efforts at their high tenor vocal tracks.
Wheeling across the stage and through the audience on rollerblades while singing and acting is no easy task, but but Folds and Prochnicki delivered solid performances. Miniely and Yesno were wickedly delightful as Ursula, competently establishing the necessary element of Disney evil eventually to be overcome. Morash possessed a rich and imposing vocal timbre as Triton, admirably tackling his musical numbers which sit in a low key that is challenging to master.
Stealing the show were Perrons and Perrault as Scuttle, both delivering vocally and physically impressive performances. As Sebastian, Jacob Gazzola brought down the house with his faithful interpretation of the anxious, put-upon singing crustacean. Special mention must be made of the female ensemble who delivered stunning vocal harmonies and a Rockette-like poise and precision with their dance and vocal performances in production numbers such as “Under the Sea,” “She’s in Love,” and the “Les Poisson Encore.”
Vibrant costumes, rich in colour and embellishments, enhanced the production in distinctive and inventive ways. Special motion effects enhanced the underwater worlds while projections that wrapped around the auditorium established the world above. The 11-member orchestra comprised of members of the TBSO, led by Musical Director Danny Johnson, served Alan Menken’s score exquisitely and extraordinarily.
Patricia Del Paggio’s and Dan Puiatti’s formidable and creative efforts as directors are to be commended for successfully guiding the entire company to a achievement that was surely complex and daunting. After seven months of pre-production and rehearsals they ultimately had to step back come opening night and trust that their guidance and direction would be executed with precision by their cast and stage hands who surely made the creative pair proud.
This full production of The Little Mermaid was a massive undertaking and set a new bar for achievement in the world of high school musical production. Not all high schools will have the means to achieve what St. Pats did here and they don’t have to. Every high school production has at its root a goal of enrichment and student involvement in the performing arts. Yet the St. Patrick High School production of The Little Mermaid showed that the endeavour has deeper meaning far beyond spectacle. Hard work, commitment and dedication are the cornerstone of high school dramatic presentations, elevating student populations to strive for greatness in the endeavour and beyond. The experience will serve and inform those involved in countless ways for years to come. It will be no surprise in the near future to find these talented individuals part of your world.