Sparkles with Enthusiasm, Talent and Pure Fun
Theater Palisades Youth’s production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid, Jr.” opened on Friday, July 26, at the Pierson Playhouse, and was an entertaining and enjoyable way to spend the evening.
Director Lara Ganz has returned for her sixth season as TPY director. Working with a cast of 45 she has triple cast the roles, so that an audience member can come to several shows and never see the same leads.
Ganz said that since the talent was deep and that the kids had done a superb job of auditioning, she wanted each to have an opportunity to have a leading role. With the nine performances, each youth performs three shows as a featured character and six shows in the ensemble.
That means the kids have to learn more than one part and that Ganz and musical director Rachel Howe Mixon have triple the amount of work as different kids perform the same role on different nights.
The story revolves around a magical kingdom beneath the sea where Ariel, a beautiful young mermaid, longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above.
On one of her visits to the surface, which is forbidden by her father King Triton, she falls in love with Prince Eric.
She must defy her father, escape the clutches of the evil sea witch Ursula and become human in order to convince the prince of her love.
Come watch all of your favorite characters that were made famous in the film, including Sebastian, Flounder, Flotsam, Scuttle, Attina, Alana and Grimsby.
The Palisades show is unique because there is aerial choreography with silks. The long streams of material add to the illusion that one is under the sea.
The night this reviewer attended, the show was colorful and although some leads were stronger than others, the innovative staging, the excellent costuming and the overall impact were superb.
I was impressed by the cast’s unity, exemplified by how the youth interacted and supported each other. How do you get 45 kids to work together without fighting? Kudos to Ganz for achieving this alchemy.
Ganz, who studied musical theater at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) New York, has a psychology degree from UCLA and is currently studying to be a children’s drama therapist. She said in a 2017 interview in Broadway World that before rehearsals start, she asks the kids to agree to certain guidelines which include:
- I agree to take big risks and not be afraid to fail or for my choices to fall flat. I understand this is an essential part of the sacred creative process.
- I agree to refrain from bragging and competitiveness because bragging makes other people feel bad and comparison kills creativity and is the thief of joy. Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.
- I agree to leave my inner Simon Cowell at home. Harsh critics have wreaked havoc on many an inspiring actor, there is no room for harsh criticism of yourself and others in the creative process.
- I agree to be inclusive at all times while at TPY because that is how we will make new friends and demonstrate that TPY is a nurturing and supportive community. No one likes to feel like they are being excluded.
In the program, Ganz also thanks the parents (and former TPY alumni) for their help.
“TPY parents, through their generosity of spirit, have taught me that community theater is theater made by, with and for the community,” Ganz said. “I am always humbled by how much time and effort this creative and whole-hearted community is willing to sacrifice to bring out theatrical dreams to life.”
This 60-minute musical contains all of the songs from the 1989 Academy Award-winning film plus three new songs from the 2008 Broadway production.
Year after year, these TYP productions are definitely worth seeing, for kids, teens and adults alike.
Remaining showtimes are 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 and Friday, August 2. On Saturday, August 3, the shows are at 2 and 5 p.m. and on Sunday, August 4, the show is 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 and can be purchased online at theatrepalisades.org/youth.html or call (310) 454-1970. Pierson Playhouse is located at 941 Temescal Canyon Rd.