There is a pent-up demand for theater arts in our community

Photo courtesy Portraits by Rebecca
Nicole King Yarbrough as “Ariel” in “The Little Mermaid.” The Disney-based show opens July 29 and runs through Aug. 13.

By Ken Christopher

Ken Christopher

Broadway South Bay and Little Theatre Productions will be launching on July 28 the classic Disney Broadway musical “The Little Mermaid.” It’s an incredible show, filled with the classic songs from the 1989 animated masterpiece, as well as wonderful new additions by Alan Menken.

Featuring Nicole King Yarbrough as “Ariel,” Hilary Little as “Ursula,” and myself as “Price Eric,” it’s a story that we can’t wait to share with the South Bay community. But before I dive too deep into our show, allow me to provide a little backstory.

In 2022, after a 15-year theater hiatus, I was blessed to be cast as “the Beast” in South Valley Civic Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast,” with the starring role of “Belle” played by someone who would grow into a dear and trusted friend of mine, Nicole King Yarbrough. At the end of each performance, after our final bow, we would look out into the crowd and see a sea of young faces, beaming from ear to ear, so excited to have experienced Disney magic in-person. After the curtains closed for the last time, Nicole and I discussed how incredible the experience was, and the possibility of working together again to add to the arts in the South Bay. Nicole’s dream has always been to perform as “Ariel,” and once I listened to the Broadway soundtrack I knew I was hooked. We had to bring “The Little Mermaid” to my hometown.

Within weeks I met with a longtime childhood friend, Hilary Little, who has built quite the name for herself through her company Little Theatre Productions that has staged children’s theater in Gilroy for years. I presented her with the idea of directing and producing an all-ages production of “The Little Mermaid.” I’m proud to report she enthusiastically agreed. From that point it’s been a nearly year-long adventure to bring this production to the Gavilan College stage.

Photo courtesy Portraits by Rebecca

In bringing together Broadway South Bay, Little Theatre Productions, and the Gavilan theater department, we’ve created something truly special. Each organization brings their unique special skill sets, and together we’re launching the first full-scale Disney production ever held in the Garlic Capital of the World.

With an all-ages cast, many of our youngest performers (and even several of our adult actors) are gracing the stage for the very first time. It’s been an exciting way to see them learn about theater arts and embrace a new medium for telling stories. It’s our great hope that they will be inspired to continue their theater journey for years to come.

Perhaps most important to all of us in this production of “The Little Mermaid” is the chance to bring such an inspiring and beautifully written tale to Gilroy itself. We want a whole generation of children and families to experience the wonders of a full-scale Disney musical for the first time. If we can light the imagination of young theater goers, and dazzle seasoned attendees alike, we know we will have fulfilled our mission.

With opening night already nearly sold out, it’s clear there is a pent-up demand for theater arts in our community. In bringing full-scale productions like “The Little Mermaid” to the South Valley, we aim to start a spark that will surely encourage more and more Broadway-style musicals to perform right here in our own backyard.

We can’t wait for you to come join us “Under the Sea” and be “Part of our World.”

Ken Christopher is the executive vice president of Christopher Ranch and a local theater enthusiast. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.