PLAY – Performing Lakeside Acting Youth – is presenting The Little Mermaid, Jr., at Lakeside Middle School (LMS) through Sunday, March 17. The show, which is an adaptation of both Disney’s classic animated movie and the successful Broadway musical version, runs with dual casts, the Guppy Cast and Tadpole Cast. Performances are March 15 and 16 at 6:00 p.m. and March 17 at 2:00 p.m.
Begun in 1999, PLAY is a theater program for students who attend schools in Lakeside Unified School District. Children in grades 4-12 rehearse evenings to prepare for the shows. Not only are all on-stage roles taken by students, so are technical roles such as lighting, sound, makeup and more. Previous shows have included Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie, Suessical the Musical and many more classics.
“ I've always enjoyed doing PLAY productions,” said LMS principal Steve Mull. “ I've been doing it for many years, and it’s great having 130 wonderful kids in the production.”
Fans of the movie version will notice several new songs, taken from the stage production, including a song by the seagull Scuttle about “Human Things,” a discussion by Flounder and the Mersisters about Ariel being in love, and Prince Eric’s explanation to Ariel about the joys of dancing. One of the most popular songs of the show, “Under the Sea,” provides an opportunity for nearly the entire cast and ensemble to shine.
Austin Gasteiger, who plays King Triton, is one of the few students to carry his role in both casts. Speaking during intermission at the first show on Thursday, March 14, Austin kept to character, saying, “It’s great ruling all these little sea-folk.”
“It’s just a really fun experience,” he continued. “ I've never gotten a role like this before where I've had to wear a beard and hair and crown – it’s different. It’s really hot in this thing, but it’s worth it to put on the show.”
Leif Corbeil, who plays Prince Eric in both casts, is appearing in his final PLAY show and is making the most of the role. “Prince Eric is a really fun role where you get to be the dream guy where all the girls are just head over heels for you,” he said. “All the attention is great. It’s just so much fun.”
Tori White, who plays Ursula the Sea Witch in the Guppy Cast, completely stole the show on Thursday night. Her voice, mannerisms and attitude were a perfect match for the role. Throw in the delightful youngsters who took on the part of her tentacles, and you had a character you loved and hated all at the same time.
“It is so much fun,” Tori said of playing the role. “I didn't like the idea at first – I didn't know if I could pull it off – but once I got my confidence up it was a lot of fun. I hadn't actually seen the movie before I got the part, so I went and watched it a million times. I also watched the Broadway version, so I guess I used that along with my own ideas and just meshed it all together.”
Jessica Besaw, who plays Ursula in the Tadpole Cast, also felt the challenge of playing the villain role. “It’s so much fun,” she said. “I’m not really a mean person, so it was hard getting into character, but I love it. I watched a lot of the Broadway version, and Ursula is kind of cynical and crazy, so I tried to bring a little more craziness and psycho to the part.”
Kyli Henzie, Ariel in the Guppy Cast, shows off her vocal talents in some of the show’s more challenging songs. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said of the part. “I get to work with a lot of different people and it’s a really fun show. It’s my dream show, so I’m really glad I got the part. When I found I had the part I was ecstatic. I screamed and I almost started crying. It was amazing.”
“It’s just a great family production that any kid at any age would enjoy,” said Mull about the production. “Teenagers enjoy it – they love seeing other teenagers on stage. It’s a little kids story, so kids love it. Adults love it – it’s a timeless story.”
“It’s a great show,” said Austin. “We have plenty of great actors and singers. Everyone is doing such a great job and we've worked so hard for this. We really hope everyone can come.”
“There are so many great things about this show,” said Tori. “The costumes are amazing – you should come just to see those. There are so many funny parts in it. I love my little tentacles. There are just so many wonderful parts.”
“ We've put a lot of hard work into getting it together,” said Kyli, “and we want to share with everybody how much fun we've had. We want them to be able to have as much fun as we do and enjoy it as much as we do.”
“People should come out because The Little Mermaid is a fun show,” said Leif. “There’s so much to see. There’s a motorized boat and light shows and great costuming. It’s really fun.
PLAY’s production of The Little Mermaid continues Friday and Saturday nights at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at Lakeside Middle School, 11833 Woodside Ave. Lakeside, CA 92040. Tickets are $5.00 at the door.