The Palmdale Playhouse and Palmdale Repertory Theatre’s presentation of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” will feature colorful costumes, scenery and special effects that will take the audience under the sea, into a magical kingdom with Ariel, King Triton, Ursula and Ariel’s crush, Prince Eric.
The show begins its two-weekend run at 8 p.m., March 22, at the Palmdale Playhouse, 38334 10th St. East.
The musical is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story and the Disney animated film.
“This has always been a beloved movie for me,” Director Marco Aguilar said.
“The Little Mermaid” movie came out in 1989 when Aguilar was a teenager in Belize.
“I was fascinated that there was a character that spoke with a Caribbean accent like I did,” he said. “My whole family, all my friends thought it was really cool that there was a Caribbean character (Sebastian) in a Disney movie.”
One of Aguilar’s favorite aspects of this production is the environmental aspect of the show. About 85% of the sets and costumes are made from recycled materials.
For example, Ursula’s tentacles were made from pool noodles. The fish on the walls and in the lobby were made from cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. The sea anemones were made from toilet paper rolls. One of the shells used in a mermaid’s headdress came from a dinner eaten at a Catalina restaurant.
“My whole thing with this is I was trying to make it an experience,” Aguilar said.
Special effects will help transport the audience to Atlantica, King Triton’s underwater kingdom. Aguilar’s instructions to the costumers was Cirque du Soleil meets Disney.
“It’s been a great experience for me working on it,” he said.
Aguilar is a professional artist who specializes in seascapes and underwater scenes.
He has directed musicals before, but “The Little Mermaid” could be the biggest. There are about 40 members in the cast, hundreds of costumes and hundreds of light cues.
“This has been a true collaborative effort between the Palmdale Playhouse staff, local artists, (and) local theater people, just trying to create art and create an experience and bring joy to the Antelope Valley,” Aguilar said.
Audience members — children and adults — are welcome to dress up when they come to the show.
“I want this to be an experience,” Aguilar said.
He had a list of special effects he wanted to use and said the City of Palmdale stepped up.
“Little kids that see this, I want to bring magic to the stage,” Aguilar said. “I want them to feel like they went to Disneyland and saw something.”
The show includes all of the favorite songs from “The Little Mermaid,” such as “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Kiss the Girl,” plus new songs written for the Broadway show.
“We have two Ariels, so we had to work twice with both of them,” Vocal/Music Director Leo Meza said. “Both different sounds — one has the Ariel from Broadway and one has the Ariel from the cartoon version, So we got the best of both worlds.”
The new songs blend well with the familiar ones, he said.
“They will notice some of the new songs, but they will enjoy them,” Meza said.
The cast includes community theater veterans and newcomers.
Actor Eric Schwartz, who plays King Triton, will perform in his first community theater production. He appears shirtless and wearing a merman skirt.
“When I came to audition, I wasn’t going for an actual role that had speaking and singing,” he said. “I was doing this for my daughter.”
At the audition interview, one of the panelists asked Schwartz to remove his shirt.
“I thought they were joking,” he said
Schwartz indicated on his audition form the one thing he wouldn’t do — nudity.
“They insisted, so I took it off and the next day, they asked me if I wanted to be Triton,” he said, adding with a laugh, “Doesn’t that require acting.”
Actress Carla Morgan, a community theater veteran, plays Ursula, the sea witch.
“It’s fun being mean and getting away with it,” she said.
Morgan added she also likes the music.
“I’m excited,” she said. “The details are just incredible.”
Actresses Ellie Aguilar and Hilary Chaney will share the role of Ariel.
“Ariel is like a dream role,” Chaney said.
Aguilar, who usually plays comedic roles, said she wanted to challenge herself with the role.
“It’s actually been really cool and super fun and it’s interesting to look at a different side of acting other than just thinking off the top of your head,” she said. “… And it’s awesome getting to share the experience with another person.”
Choreographer Carrie McBryant said creating the “underwater” dance moves took some imagination.
“Usually when we think of choreography, we think of just the music, we don’t think of the numbers that are happening,” she said. “But I had to be a little bit more direct with, ‘You know you’re under the sea so even when you’re standing you need a little bit more swaying.’”
McBryant said she hopes the audience feels immersed into the world.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is the fourth collaboration between the Palmdale Playhouse and Palmdale Repertory Theatre.
The city serves as producer and bears the full cost of the production, supplying the Palmdale Playhouse and its staff, including building the sets and making the costumes.
Palmdale Repertory Theatre provides the director, stage manager, musical director, who is paid by the city and the choreographer.
“Part of the purpose of this is to draw new people into the theater,” Linda Willis, production stage manager with the Palmdale Playhouse, which celebrates its 25th year this fall, said.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” will be on stage at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, March 22-30; and 2 p.m., Saturdays, March 23 and 30, and Sundays, March 24 and 31.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors age 55 and older, military and student with ID, and children 12 and younger.
For details visit www.palmdaleplayhouse.com, or call 661-267-5684