By SUE SUCHYTA
The preteen Guildlings at the Players Guild of Dearborn present Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6 to 8, and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the theater, 21730 Madison.
Directed by Valerie Mangrum Haas of Inkster, the show features lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, music by Alan Menken, and book by Doug Wright.
Paul Abbott of Livonia is the music director, with choreographer Laura Tyler of Canton Township.
When mermaid princess Ariel longs to leave her magical underwater kingdom for the human world above, she strikes a deal with the evil Ursula, and defies her father’s wishes in an attempt to win the love of human Prince Eric, who has fallen in love with her singing voice without seeing her face.
Tickets are $7. The run time is 65 minutes. To order, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.
Haas said seeing the live stage performance of “The Little Mermaid” is more engaging than watching a film – especially an animated film – because real people are the performers.
She said getting youth actors to move as thought they were underwater is a challenge.
“Mer-folk and fish and crustaceans in their natural habitat move vastly different than we humans,” Haas said. “Representing the underwater world of Ariel and her family and friends is challenging.”
Haas said modern Disney classics were really created with adults in mind as much as children.
“The same humor that appeals from the film is here,” Haas said. “The absurdity of the crab running from a French chef, or a seagull that ‘knows’ everything about the human stuff remains funny no matter what the medium.”
Tyler said the choreography is bright and fun, with children costumed as multicolored fish and as jelly fish.
She said the stage characters bring the story to life with an immediacy screen characters can’t replicate.
“It’s alive,” she said. “Instead of seeing it on a screen, and animated, your characters are right there. I think there’s a big difference between watching something animated on a screen and having it actually come to life around you.”
Abbott said children like to see their peers on stage, and that, along with a familiar story, is entertaining. He hopes it will inspire children new to theater to try it as well.
Madison Ganzak of Dearborn, who plays Ariel, is a newcomer to the Guild, and is excited and honored to play the lead role.
“This is pretty much the biggest role I have ever gotten,” she said, “and it’s an honor to be with this wonderful cast.”
Molly Boudreau of Dearborn, who plays Ursula, the evil sea witch, said it is a different challenge for her, because she has never played a villain before.
“I get to evil laugh and stuff like that,” Boudreau said. “It’s really cool to do that.”
She said her costume includes a wig, and she has a chair that rolls around with six little minions attending her and pushing her around.
Nate Hermen of Dearborn Heights, who plays King Triton, said he enjoys that his character gets to yell a lot.
“I get to carry around this huge trident, I get to walk around proudly, and everybody is under you,” Hermen said. “You don’t have to listen to anybody except the director.”
Hermen said the advantage of seeing the story as a play as opposed to an animated movie is that you are seeing it right in front of you.
“You can react more vividly, and respond by clapping, instead of just sitting there silently and watching a movie,” Hermen said. “It’s a bunch of kids having fun here in the theater.”
Gavin Deckert of Dearborn, who plays Prince Eric, has been in three previous Guildling productions, said he was surprised when he got a leading role.
“I auditioned for the role of Scuttle, but it stunned me when I found out I had the role of Prince Eric, which is probably the biggest role I have ever gotten,” he said.
Deckert said memorizing all his lines is a challenge, but doing a play is the best thing he does each summer.
“It’s amazing, to be honest,” Deckert said. “I think every kid should be doing this stuff.”
Others in the cast includes Dearborn residents Andrew Brown as Grimsby, Joey Garza as Sebastian, and Jamie Paschke of Dearborn Heights as Flounder.
The six mer-sister princesses include Dearborn residents Grace Crandall as Aquata, Allison Koehler as Arista, Payton Schlaf as Adelia, Olivia Sherman as Allana, and Alia Elhajj as Atina; and Isabella Torres of Dearborn Heights as Adrina. Christina Bertucci of Dearborn is Jetsam; with Dearborn Heights residents Natalia Torres as Flotsam, and Kaitlin Birner as Scuttle. The gulls are played by Dearborn residents Stella Doverspike, Lara Elhajj, and Ella Hall. Cole Haas of Inkster plays Chef Louis. Also: Dearborn residents Ellie Morris as Carlotta, Ella Champoux as the seahorse, Justine Moore as Max; and Claire Crandall, Chloe Doverspike, Jessica Koehler, Laura Manrique, Phoebe Morris, and Alexandra Slanec as the tentacles and the chefs. The sea chorus includes Dearborn residents Ella Champoux, Ava Assenmacher, and Lucy Morris; and Lucee Wilson of Dearborn Heights.
The sailors are played by Blake and Brady Deckert of Dearborn, and Matt Hermen of Dearborn Heights.
OPEN BOOK THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS ‘WILEY AND THE HAIRY MAN’
The Open Book Theatre Company presents “Wiley and the Hairy Man” at 2 p.m. Aug. 8 and 9 at Market Center Park at Eureka and Dix in Southgate.
Written by Susan Zeder, in the family-friendly show, which is based on a folktale, a boy and his dog learn how to stand up to their fears in a humorous adventure that is fun for the entire family.
Tickets are $5 for children and $10 for adults. The outdoor venue has tiered lawn seating. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or outdoor chairs.
Directed by Krista Schafer Ewbank, the cast features Falynn Victoria Burton, Stebert Davenport, Ryan Ernst, Mandy Logsdon, Minday Padlo, Dinah Tutein, and Lenora Whitecotton.
WATER WORKS THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS ANNUAL SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
The Water Works Theatre Company presents its 15th annual season of Shakespeare in the Park with “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “As You Like It” at Starr Jaycee Park, 1301 W. 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak.
Tickets for “All’s Well That Ends Well” are $20. Performances are at 8 p.m. Aug. 6 to 8, and 5 p.m. Aug. 9.
Tickets for “As You Like It” are $10. Performances are at 7 p.m. Aug. 4 and 5, and 2 p.m. Aug. 8 and 9.
Kirk Haas, a local director, and an actor familiar to audiences at the Players Guild of Dearborn, as well as an historical interpreter at The Henry Ford, plays Lefeu in “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
Rising Shakespearean actors who appeared in last summer’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Players Guild of Dearborn, now performing with Water Works, include Daniel Morency as the Duke and a Lord in “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and Matt Pecek as Orlando and Kim Alley as Celia in “As You Like It.”
For more information, go to shakespeareroyaloak.com.