Draper Historic makes ‘Little Mermaid’ part of your world
The classic Disney tale was brought to life at the Draper Historic Theatre. (Draper Historic Theatre)
In a display of color and costume, the Draper Historic Theatre’s production of “The Little Mermaid” brought the Disney classic to life. Based on the movie, “The Little Mermaid” tells the story of the mermaid Ariel who makes a deal with a sea witch to become human in order to be with Eric, a prince she has fallen in love with.
Director Marc Navez described “The Little Mermaid” as his favorite Disney movie of all time.
“I wanted to direct it and I said, ‘Let’s get it on stage and show what little Draper Historic Theatre could do with the tiny stage and still be under the sea,’” Navez said.
When he was casting the show, Navez said he looked for people who could pay tribute to the roles and could seem like they walked out of the movie.
“They could be Ariel or they could be Eric,” Navez said. “They were people you already knew so you could already love the characters.”
The hardest part of putting the production together was combining the theater’s old technology with recent technological additions made through donations.
“We got three new LED light strips donated to us and a brand new sight screen in the back and having to deal with that and having this brand new technology paired with our 50-year-old technology and its clashing, and figuring out that meshing and having a performance ready was probably the biggest challenge,” Navez said.
The show opened with the lights going down and a blue screen shinning on the back. Actors dressed as fish “swam” out onto the stage in silhouette and ended with Ariel grabbing a fork that was flung off a boat by Eric. This intricate opening was Navez’s favorite part of the show.
The production was double cast with the main characters being played by different actors on different nights. The role of Ariel in cast B was Erica Glenn.
“It’s funny, the girl who is double cast opposite of me was my understudy in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ this last summer with the Lehi Arts Council,” Glenn said. “It’s kind of fun that we both found our way here and both ended up getting cast across from each other.”
Glenn said she was drawn to the character of Ariel because she is such a fun character and so different than other Disney princesses.
“A lot of ingénues and Disney princesses are a little bit blah, especially the older ones, and she was start of the new wave of princesses where they’ve got a little bit of spunk. They’ve got a little bit of inner rebellion they’ve got to deal with,” Glenn said. “This is also a fun role because almost the entire second act is pantomimed. It requires a whole different set of skills. And she has a very distinct personality, which is fun.”
Glenn said the hardest part of the production is the amount of work necessary to pull off the spectacle and other-worldliness of being set under the sea.
“Figuring out those elements and figuring out how to work on the stage to make sure everything goes smoothly is probably the trickiest part,” Glenn said.
In prepping for the role, Glenn said she resisted the urge to watch the Disney movie but instead tried to get into the head of a 16-year-old girl.
“I did a lot of thinking about her character and how she kind of matures over the course of the show. I think of her in terms of her relationships; her relationship with her dad is really key and obviously her developing relationship with the prince and her relationship with Sebastian and her relationship with Flounder,” Glenn said. “To me, that’s what drives the show, those developing relationships.”
Jared Campbell played the role of Eric in cast B. Campbell was previously in “Into the Woods” in October at the Draper Historic Theatre and was asked to come back and audition for Eric. Campbell described the character as being a big dreamer.
“He wants to be something other than what he is. He’s a prince in line for the crown and he doesn’t want to,” Campbell said. “He wants to be a simple sailor. He wants to be out on the sea, which is kind of funny with him and Ariel and their paths crossing.”
While preparing for the role, Campbell also avoided watching the movie because he didn’t want to copy that version of Eric. Instead, Campbell dove into the script.
“I read through the script a few times and figured out how Eric works with me. How am I going to portray Eric? What do I really feel? I was trying to get inside of his character,” Campbell said. “I was really going through that. And then really being able to interact with the other actors on the stage was a big thing in developing my character.”
For Campbell, the most tender part of the show is the song “If Only.” While not in the original movie, it was added to the Broadway production. The song is a quartet between Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and King Triton.
“It’s a big developing moment for them. It’s a moment where everything is shifting where they’re realizing what is going to happen and what is about to change,” Campbell said. “It’s this really tender moment where they’re really expressing their longings.”
For more information about the Draper Historic Theatre and future productions, visit http://drapertheatre.org.