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Nonprofit profile: SVCT opens season with Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid Jr.’ musical

Play performed by 46 children and teens from Gilroy and Morgan Hill

Published in Morgan Hill October 12-25, 2016

By Staff Report

Photo by Jason Leong Ariel, the Little Mermaid, played by Emily Pember, "swims" during a rehearsal.

Photo by Jason Leong
Ariel, the Little Mermaid, played by Emily Pember, “swims” during a rehearsal.

At a dress rehearsal last week, Emily Pember said she felt excited starring as the lead character Ariel in South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” which opened Sept. 30 for a four weekend run. The role involves putting on a flying harness and soaring with other actors across the stage as they simulate swimming in Neptune’s kingdom.

“It’s my first time being in a sweet role. I get to try something new and, of course, I’m a Disney princess,” said the Live Oak High School freshman. “It’s really fun. While you’re performing or singing, you don’t really notice that you’re in the air, so it’s not very nerve-racking. And it’s cool that you get to say that you’ve gotten to fly as a kid, because most actors don’t get to do that.”

The stage musical, performed at the Morgan Hill Playhouse until Oct. 22, is based on the animated 1989 Disney film of the classic story by Hans Christian Andersen about a mermaid who dreams of the human world above the sea and gives up her voice to find love with a young prince.

The character of Ariel is one Pember finds intriguing because of the wide range of feelings the part requires.

“She shows a lot of emotion, but she has a lot of trouble controlling what she says,” she said. “She’s very sweet and she’s always excited. But when she’s upset you can tell she’s upset. She’s very passionate.”

little-mermaid-jason-18

Photo by Jason Leong Emily Pember as Ariel, the Little Mermaid, admires a fork from the human world with inhabitants of the underwater kingdom during rehearsal.

The musical’s producers are Kathy Tom, Pam Drayton and Jason Leong. The show is directed by Colleen Blanchard.

The show kicks off the 2016-2017 SVCT season, with the other shows being “The 1940’s Radio Hour,” (starting Nov. 18), “Footloose,” (starting Feb. 24), “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (starting April 21), and “Willy Wonka” (starting June 23).

“The Little Mermaid” has a cast of 46 child and teenage performers, Drayton said.

“It’s about half and half from Morgan Hill and Gilroy, which is really nice because we’re getting kids from the Gilroy Children’s Theater,” she said.

The show is a shorter version of the 2008 Broadway version and lasts about an hour and a half, making it age-appropriate for families with young kids and toddlers to experience live musical theater for the first time.

Many children in the audience will be thrilled to watch the actors “fly” across the stage using special harnesses attached to rigs that hold them safely above the stage, creating the illusion of swimming underwater, Drayton said. The effect was popular in SVCT’s production of “Mary Poppins” in August.

“It makes for great theater. It’s a fun experience for adults and it’s going to be a really fun experience for children,” Drayton said. “We look forward to bringing another great family experience to Morgan Hill.”

South Valley Civic Theatre

What: “Little Mermaid Jr.”
When: 8 p.m. Fridays Oct. 14 and 21; 2 p.m. Saturday Oct. 15 and 22; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday Oct. 16
Where: Morgan Hill Community Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road