The Little Mermaid: Life is truly better under the sea
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Photography by 33 Park
The competition is tight. Determining which of Disney’s many princesses is the very best is particularly difficult. Mulan is pretty impressive driving back the Huns; Cinderella endured untoward cruelty and poverty in order to ride off into the sunset with Prince Charming; the odds were firmly set against Snow White and her seven little friends. However, it is Ariel, a mermaid so remarkable that she found a way to be transformed into a human in order to be with her one true love, who will be showing what she’s really made of on stage at Hilton Head Prep’s Main Street Theatre in their production of The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Andersen tale about a beautiful young mermaid with dreams of the world above the sea.
“My goal is for people to come to the theater and feel it’s transformed into this underwater world,” said Peggy Trecker White, the school’s director of performing arts and producer and director of the show.
A musical that could be a bit overwhelming considering the theater’s limited size, the production’s intricate stage direction, and the whimsical set and costume design, she and her impressive behind-the-scenes team are making it all come together along with approximately 35 students performers from the middle and upper schools, and a “school” of lower school student playing various under-the-sea creatures: adorable, puffy, little starfish, seahorses and swimmers.
“With a Broadway budget, it’s easier to create a storm,” White said. “And how do you create moments where the world literally takes place under water, and then two seconds later is on land? With this show, these are the things you’re challenged by, and there are a lot of them.” White is thrilled to have set designer Colleen Murray back after her work on the school’s Fall production of The Importance of Being Earnest. “She has such a positive, upbeat outlook,” White said, and is always quick to say, “Let’s make it happen.”
Kathryn Rosenberg is the production’s assistant director; Patti Maurer is doing the choreography with Ali Wojcikiewicz as assistant choreographer; Pat Wilcox is designing the costumes; and Evelyn McNair is directing the live musical score composed by Alan Menken.
“Everything will be bedazzled and fabulous,” White said, and a part of making that happen are parents like Chris and Lara Garnieciwz. “He’s really a renaissance man; he builds tutus for Hilton Head Dance Theatre.”
Working in collaboration with Wilcox, White wants Chris involved in the design and construction of the costumes for Ursula and Ariel. “I really want to pack a punch and I respect what he does so much. Lara is talented and gifted as well, and she has volunteered to do the props.”
Freshman, Justin Stone plays Sebastian, the “by-the-book” crustacean.
Sophomore, Shannon Hegarty plays the lyrical Ariel. Beside her is Senior, Kate Herman, who will play Scuttle the seagull.
Once the stage has been set and the music fills the theater, it is the performers who will be bringing all the bubbles and splashes and sea creatures to life. Sophomore Shannon Hegarty will play the lyrical Ariel, a role that is a perfect fit, White said. Second grader Calvin Middleton will play her sweet sidekick Flounder. “He’s fantastic, awfully cute, and has a lot of personality.” He and Shannon get along very well White said… there may even be a little crushing going on.
White is thrilled to have the school’s freshman class well represented, with several roles being earned by under-classmen including Sebastian, played by Justin Stone; King Triton, played by Keegan Crotty; and Prince Eric played by Avery Campbell. “Scuttle the seagull is played by senior Kate Herman,” White said.
“She’s such a positive bright light, and Scuttle is so quirky and funny. And Jackson Richard, a senior who has never done a show before is playing Chef Louis. One of our top students academically, it’s so exciting that he decided to face this new challenge.”
The formidable Ursula is being played by Ava Nixon, “our resident comedian,” White said. “Seniors Zach June and Jack Dextraze play Ursula’s evil underlings; separately they are the funniest kids and together they are hilarious—often hard to contain during rehearsals. It’s their senior year, and they wanted to work together. Eva, Zach, and Jack are a comedic dream team.
“I am thrilled that The Little Mermaid offers a lot of secondary roles that have a good amount to do, which is great for a high school performance,” White said. “There are various levels. There are leads and then secondary level roles that have things to do, and then there’s the ensemble that at times almost works harder than anyone else. It’s really nice to have that other tier where kids can kind of build up into leading roles.”
Having recently returned from a mini sabbatical, working on a dance performance project in Abu Dhabi, White explored a new way of looking at performing and is eager to bring the process to the Prep theater department and her students. “My hope is to get some of our student actors and dancers together in a room who are willing to work in this new way and then see what happens. Students are used to being told where to go, what to do, what choice to make. It is a shift for an actor to feel confident in making their own choices—just throwing it out there and not judging it. Depending on the person, it can take a long time, maybe forever, to get comfortable making big choices.” She knows that the process can be a real life lesson for her students. “Don’t judge it. Just get it out there and see what happens.”
Peggy Trecker White is passionate about building a rich history, transforming the school’s theater department in ways that will impact the lives of her students throughout their future endeavors. She and her team are also looking forward to transforming Prep’s Main Street Theatre into a shimmering, sparkling aquarium where Ariel will tell her story, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Disney’s best princess? I think she just may have this one.
Dates and show times for The Little Mermaid at Hilton Head Prep’s Main Street Theatre are March 16-20 at 7:30 p.m. and March 19 and 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at hhprep.org.