South Decatur Elementary School (SDES) will stage a production of the Disney musical “The Little Mermaid” from 7 to 9 p.m., April 25 and 26, at the school.
The Daily News attended the second of two dress-rehearsal runs of the play Wednesday afternoon performed for the school. According to Co-director and SDES Art Teacher Lori Bierhaus, the impressive, colorful production was run almost exclusively by students.
“We certainly didn’t plan it that way,” she said. “During practices, I’d get pulled away while we were in the middle of something and tell everybody to take a break. But the kids just kept chugging along. When I’d come back, they’d have all the lights marked and would be working on getting everything right — lights, lines, marks. This entire production is completely student run. We’ve never had a production like that before. It’s pretty amazing for a group of fifth and sixth graders.”
Co-director and SDES Music Teacher Karen Meeker agreed. “This is our eighth year doing this,” she said, “and this is one of the most talented casts we’ve ever had.”
That assessment was especially impressive considering that many of the leads are performing in their first production.
Among them is fifth grader Kalie Fry, who plays the Little Mermaid herself — Ariel.
Fry described the moment the curtain initially rose on Wednesday’s first practice run as, “Amazing, nerve-wracking and wonderful.” She also thanked her castmates, calling them “awesome.”
For Lynea Bell, who plays Ursula, the nefarious sea witch who takes Ariel’s voice as the price for becoming human so she can woo the valiant Prince Eric, the experience was equally exhilarating.
“My experience was a little different from everyone else’s,” the sixth grader said. “I had to compete against another girl to win my part.”
Meeker confirmed the difficulty in selecting the play’s Ursula, explaining, “We had a tough time deciding between the two girls for the Ursula part. We had them in to audition more times than I can count.”
“It was nine times,” Bell said. “I counted.”
Sixth Grader Orion Ingmire, who plays Sebastian — a kind of crustacean Jiminy Cricket — praised his fellow cast members as an “amazing group.”
“I had a very small part in last year’s ‘Honk Jr.,’ as a chicken,” he said. “This role was a lot different because I didn’t have any speaking parts last year; I was down at the low rung. I got a big promotion this year — chicken to crab.”
Orion agreed that he was extremely nervous when the first show started on Wednesday, but then relaxed as he settled into the role.
“It’s kind of weird,” he said. “When I first started practicing, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to learn all the lines. But now, I’ve done it enough times that I don’t think about it anymore. The lines just pop into my head when it’s my turn.”
Sixth grader Brenan Cooper (Flounder), also playing in his first production, agreed with the general consensus among the cast that the experience was exhilarating, nerve-wracking and all-together “awesome.”
Nolan Storm (Prince Eric) played the lead in last year’s “Honk, Jr.” The nerves weren’t quite as pronounced for him this year, he said, except for a little upon first curtain. Then he realized all his cast mates knew their lines and weren’t going to make any big mistakes, and that helped him settle down.
“This was the best experience I’ve ever had,” he said.
“These kids have been on Cloud Nine,” Bierhaus said. “They’re very proud, and they deserve to be.”
Tickets for the SDES production of “The Little Mermaid” are available at the door for $5.
The show starts at 7 p.m., April 25 and 26, at the school. For more information, call 591-3115.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011