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School band, orchestra add to fastastical feel of popular Disney musical production

If You Go

What: "The Little Mermaid," presented by Reynolds High School Theater Arts Department

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 21-23; 2 p.m. Nov. 23

Where: Reynolds High School auditorium, 1698 S.W. Cherry Park Road, Troutdale.

Tickets: (online) $12, adults; $8, students, seniors; (at door) $15, adults; $10 students/seniors.

Visit: rhsraiderstheatre.wordpress.com

COURTESY PHOTO: LAURA STEENSON  - Reynolds High School senior Ellie Tewksbury portrays Ariel, the lead character in the Theater Arts Departments production of Disneys The Little Mermaid. "The Little Mermaid" may not seem like the edgiest choice for a high school theater production in 2019, but Reynolds High School's director of Theater Arts Laura Steenson is confident there's a little something for all ages and sensibilities in the Disney story.

"Obviously the kids are gonna love it," she said. "But I think there's a lot there for adults — jokes that kids are not going to get, fish puns they won't get — it's in the spoofing that adults get it."

The Reynolds Theater Arts Department kicked off its fall production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid," based on a stage adaptation of the 1989 animated musical fantasy movie, on Thursday, Nov. 14, with additional performances at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 21-23, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Reynolds High School Auditorium, 1698 S.W. Cherry Park Road, Troutdale.

Steenson encourages everyone to come out to see their favorite characters from the Disney movie "come to life as they sing and dance on our stage," she said, and enjoy new songs played by the Reynolds High band and orchestra students.

"The Little Mermaid" story centers on Ariel, a rebellious 16-year-old who fascinated with life on land. On one of her visits to the surface, which are forbidden by King Triton, her controlling father, Ariel, played by senior Ellie Tewksbury, falls for a human, Prince Eric. Determined to be with her new love, Ariel makes a dangerous deal with the sea witch Ursula to become human for three days. When plans go awry for the star-crossed lovers, however, the king must make the ultimate sacrifice for his daughter.COURTESY PHOTO: LAURA STEENSON  - Special care was taken to make the sets pop in a cartoonish manner for The Little Mermaid at Reynolds High School.

"There's the father-daughter relationship between Ariel and (King Triton)," noted Steenson, a seven-year veteran of Reynolds theater arts. "A lot of adults will relate to that, especially parents of teenagers."

Steenson, who considered her younger self the "perfect demographic" for the Disney movie when it was released in 1989, feels good about the selection and the cast, which she began assembling in May and June.

"It's Disney, everyone loves it, and we knew it would sell well. But the music's really challenging and there are a lot of technical aspects," she said.

Rehearsals began on Aug. 19, partly to accommodate the 26 cast members who have (singing) solos or speaking lines.

"That's high for a musical," Steenson noted. "Usually it's in the 10 to 12 range, so this is double to triple."

All the better, then, to have a bevy of experienced — for high school, at least — actors and singers.

"Most of the lead roles are veterans. The prince (played by senior Skialar Mahar) is in his very first role, and probably three-quarters of the leads are experienced students," she said. "The other 25 students are newcomer students who have only been in one or two shows before."

"The Little Mermaid" also promises a visual feast for the senses.

"Our whole vision was to bring the cartoon (look) to life," Steenson said. "In the sets, everything is very cartoon-y."

The director stressed, however, that for the students, the production is more than just whimsical fun and games.

"While it's Disney and fun, it's also — because of the challenges — a good educational opportunity."

COURTESY PHOTO: LAURA STEENSON  - Rehearsals for The Little Mermaid started back in August so the 26 cast members of The Little Mermaid who have solos or speaking lines would be comfortable in their roles.


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