UNDER THE SEA

SCHS dips its toe in the water with ‘The Little Mermaid’
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Scuttle, played by Grace Licausi, tries to help Ariel, played by Peyton Buerman, learn how to get on her newly created feet in a scene of “The Little Mermaid.” While the film only had a simple scene about Ariel learning to walk, the stage adaptation features a song and dance dedicated to the mermaid’s lesson.

The winter musical for Shawano Community High School is going swimmingly as more than 75 students prepare to show “The Little Mermaid” to the public next week.

Most of the show will be familiar to those who saw the Disney film, as the musical also tells the Disney tale. However, there will be a few more songs that help extend a 90-minute movie into a live show that lasts beyond two hours.

For those who have not seen the film, the story of “The Little Mermaid” follows a girl named Ariel who falls hopelessly in love for a prince. The problem is that the prince walks on land, while she gets around on fins.

To further add drama, her father, Triton, the king of the seas, is against Ariel being with anyone on land, so in a fit of teenage rebellion, she heads off to see the villainous sea witch, Ursula, in search of a pair of legs. Ursula agrees to give Ariel legs, but the mermaid only has three days to get the prince to kiss her, or she becomes a mermaid and Ursula’s slave — and she must woo the prince without her lovely singing voice.

Alex Konen, who directs the school’s fall plays and has helped with musicals the last few years, was tapped to direct this year’s show after longtime choir director Jonathon Kent retired in 2018. Konen admitted there are more moving parts to directing a musical than with a show that doesn’t require singing and dancing.

“There were a couple of different shows I was looking at (to be the winter musical), and there was one that was more comfortable to me — I’d done it before — but then they put these really weird restrictions on the advertising,” Konen said. “So I said, ‘Whoa, let’s pump the brakes.’”

Konen’s priority for this year was to get a musical that was fun and upbeat. He wanted something that the entire community would want to come see.

“‘The Little Mermaid’ seemed to have a good mix,” Konen said. “Some of the characters can be cast as female characters, even if it’s technically a boy part in the Disney version. It really gave us some flexibility to move some things around as we needed to.”

Konen said that all of the classic songs like “Under the Sea” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” are in the stage adaptation, but there will be some that audiences will be less familiar with if they’ve only seen the film.

“There’s a song in there between the father and the daughter, lamenting how their relationship is fracturing,” Konen said. “We get a song with the seagulls, and Scuttle is trying to teach Ariel to walk. In the movie, it’s just, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get up and you’ve gotta go.’ In here, there’s a whole dance number to try and get her on her feet.”

There are almost 50 students on the stage, followed by another 20 performing in the orchestra pit and about a dozen working as technicians behind the scenes.

“There are a lot of moving pieces at this point,” Konen said.

One of those moving pieces is the choreography, and Konen brought in a former student, Laura Arens, to map out the dance numbers.

“They actually come out into the audience with one of their numbers around the pit,” Konen said. “Laura has spent a number of years doing dance, and she came back and was willing to help us out.”

Even though the story of “The Little Mermaid” was familiar to the actors, learning different ways to sing the classic songs was a hurdle, according to Konen.

“That’s one thing that we warned them about starting out was that, because it’s music you’re familiar with, you have to be careful because some of the notes or melodies are different than what you’ve been belting out in your living room for the last 10 years,” Konen said.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: “The Little Mermaid”

WHEN: 4 p.m. Wednesday, 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Auditorium, Shawano Community High School, 220 County Road B, Shawano

ADMISSION: $12 adults, $9 senior citizens, $6 students