‘The Little Mermaid’ Finds Colorful Conclusion in Little Egg Harbor

After School Program Curtain Call for Students on Stage
Apr 11, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson LAST REHEARSAL: Diane Roberts co-directs her last Little Egg Harbor Community School Drama Club show before retirement from the school district. Marlin (Zachary Kay, right) and Miss Callaloo (Jaelyn Matta) get in character.

Staging “The Little Mermaid” for the drama club at Little Egg Harbor’s George J. Mitchell School has been bittersweet for teachers Diane Roberts and Tracy Moyer, as it may be their last collaborative effort. Moyer’s physical education teaching position was cut from the school budget last year, and Roberts is retiring in June after more than 30 years experience teaching in the district. The pair have produced two or three productions a year through the Little Egg Harbor School District Community School for the last six years.

This show was performed for students Tuesday afternoon and again for parents that evening.

During dress rehearsal Monday after school, April 9, Roberts and Moyer helped the cast adjust their costumes, find their props and get on stage at the right time. The children were as excited and animated as only a room full of 10-year-olds can be. Some students couldn’t help but peek out from behind the velvet stage curtains as the play unfolded.

This play is not the Disney version. (What elementary school could afford the expensive Disney license fee for its brand name shows?) Rather, it is another adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson original fairy tale. Written by Kathryn Schultz Miller, it’s a witty and entertaining play that originally called for a cast of about 20.

“Thirty-seven kids applied,” said Roberts. “And we hate to turn kids away, so we added some lines to the show.”

The sound and light crew (Dannie Eberlin, Kellie Jones and Christopher Nuse) were ready with their cues laid out before them. The first sound of waves and gulls filled the auditorium as the Court of Neptune marched in from the wings, with Qasi Goode portraying Neptune. The king is wondering where his daughter Annabelle (The Little Mermaid) has gone.

Two court advisers, Marquis Marlin (Zachary Kay) and Jellyfish (Jocelyn Pascale), are given a dressing down for losing sight of Annabelle; they are supposed to protect her. Like all good bureaucrats, they look for someone else to pin the blame on.

They find Annabelle’s friends, Aruba Flamingo (Taylor Zimmerman) and Finny Fish (Kailey Merklin), to serve as scapegoats.

Still smarting from their dressing down – “Oh, for the love of carp!” quips Finny – the friends confront the wayward mermaid. Annabelle (Summer Prete) tells them she has been above the water to take in the sun, and has seen a ship. She sings about her love for the sunshine.

She can’t be warned off her love of the earth. She begs Aruba and Finny to keep her secret.

Meanwhile, Neptune is visited by the Queen of the Humans, Odessa (Aemilia Gleason), who has a very evil laugh. They are enemies because of a back story involving his wife.

Cut to the scene on deck of a ship piloted by Captain Slappy (Emily Lawrie) and her crew, who sing a rousing “Blow the Man Down.” The ship is owned by the Duke of Charleston (Gabe Rosetti) and is carrying Prince Edward (Giovanni Carnes) to the Island Castle.

Deep below the surface, a calypso dance number by the sea creatures is very entertaining, involving Moyer’s choreographed hand slaps with dancing and singing.

Some time later, the ship is caught in a storm and sadly, all are washed into the sea. But Annabelle rescues Prince Edward and sings a song he can’t forget, though he remains foggy on other details of his rescue.

At the castle, Chef Philippe (Katie Dillinger) has a highly comedic fit about the dinner preparations. Her two helpers are cutups as well: Ginger (Alexis Broderson) and Nutmeg (Calista Bucher).

The plot thickens like a two-day stew as Annabelle is convinced by the evil Odessa to give up her beautiful voice in order to be human. Prince Edward still can only recall the beautiful song he heard, and longs to rediscover its owner.

Since Odessa now possesses Annabelle’s voice, the prince is about to marry the evil queen…

... Yet in the nick of time, Neptune gets wind of the plot from Finny and Aruba. As expected, the play continues to a happier ending than envisioned by the original Hans Christian Anderson tale. Anderson left the mermaid to weep on the rocks of Copenhagen harbor.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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