Although Disney Studios wrote the same animated story with the same characters and the same theme numerous times, any live production of The Little Mermaid presents choreographing opportunities, staging challenges and complex vocal numbers that make it an unusually delightful Disney offering.
An unexpected treat, this summer’s Rainbow Youth Theatre production of Mermaid appeals to children of all ages.
Starting with the star-crossed mermaid Ariel’s (Shannon Caine) infatuation with the human Prince Eric (Hayden Ledingham), whom she hasn’t even met, followed by her father King Triton’s (Gary Caine) insistence that human’s are barbaric fish-eaters and dangerous, the play itself harks back to Disney classics like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
That’s where comparisons leave off, thanks to Mermaid’s director, choreographer and all-around driving force, Tamara Ryan Telford.
With years of professional experience in dance and musical theatre, as well as teaching expertise gained as one of the owners of Triple Heat Dance Studio located in Tin Town, Telford claims that she’s still a kid at heart, which allows her to relate to her young performers so well.
“I listen to their music and I watch the moves they make,” says Telford, “and from there I create choreography that’s interesting, but simple and attainable.”
Regularly, she appeals to her young actors by reminding them that they are privileged to be on stage and that they owe their audiences the very best performance each time the curtain rises.
And, in Mermaid, the curtain rises on numerous scenes that are challenging to stage including ones that take place on board a ship, on a beach, in a throne room, and in the depths of the ocean.
And it’s in the depths of the ocean that the audience meets perhaps the most interesting character in the musical, the evil Sea Witch, Ursula, menacingly captured by young performer Sophie Bovey.
According to Bovey, she enjoys playing evil characters because, “I can go over the top with big gestures and a threatening voice.”
Bovey commends Telford as a director because she “uses good metaphors to explain a character’s motives,” which is critical, claims Bovey, in understanding Ursula’s all-consuming quest for undersea power.
The final piece of The Little Mermaid puzzle falls into place with the musical direction offered by Valley and RYT newcomer, Brennan Barrett. Especially noteworthy is the five-part harmony offered up by the young singers in the production number Kiss the Girl.
Barrett believes the many volunteer hours he dedicates to Mermaid as the musical director is time well-spent since RYT offers young actors the opportunity to experience the magic of musical theatre.
Tickets for Mermaid are available for $10 at Laughing Oyster Book Shop in Courtenay and Red Carpet Consignment Boutique in Comox, as well as Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, the site of the Aug. 1 through 4 production, as well as a special preview at 7 PM on July 31.
— Rainbow Youth Theatre