Tiger Arts Guild bringing ‘Little Mermaid’ to stage

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, March 7, 2018

“The Little Mermaid Jr.” is swimming to the stage at Demopolis High School this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and this Sunday at 2 p.m. Since the musical is modeled after the Broadway play, attendees can expect songs not sung in the Disney classic.

Thirty-five students, including 10 departing seniors, make up the cast and crew for this production.

“They have all worked really well together,” said Jody Tartt, director and DHS’s theater teacher.

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“The Little Mermaid Jr.” follows the Tiger Arts Guild’s (TAG) tradition of having a stage adaption of a Disney movie as their spring musical.

“We’ve done ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin’, and so it just seemed fitting to follow it up with another one. And a lot of people have been asking about ‘The Little Mermaid’ for a while,” Tartt said.

Tartt said that casting was done before Christmas break, and rehearsals started the day the students returned on Jan. 4.

Rehearsals for the musical numbers took place in three stages. Music Director Madaline Jacobs worked with students on the vocals. Once the songs were learned, Choreographer Kelley Smith taught the students the dance steps. Tartt then polished everything by working on staging.

“It’s been a lot of fun. They’ve worked hard to get this far. It’s exciting to work on such a classic Disney show that everyone is so familiar with,” Smith said. This is her first time choreographing a TAG production.

According to Tartt, rehearsals were often challenging because several students had the flu and missed several practices in a row.

The students, however, were determined to make the production a grand experience, especially the seniors who wanted their last show with TAG to be as memorable as possible.

“This is the ‘go big or go home’ for us,” Senior Christopher Hoven said.

He and fellow senior, Brian Tripp, have been held onstage and backstage roles with TAG since they were freshmen. Before then, they were involved with the Canebrake Players.

“The memories that I make in the theater are the best memories of my life,” Tripp said.

Tripp and Hoven both consider the cast and crew members to be their family and York-based artist Garland Farwell is no exception.

Farwell has been a set designer for TAG on-and-off for nine years. He works the design class, letting them come up with their own ideas for the set pieces and then helping to flesh them out.

He and the students will transport attendees to King Trident’s throne room, Ariel’s grotto, Ursula’s lair and Prince Eric’s ship and castle among other places.

Tartt said that set pieces needing to be moved easily presented a unique challenge. Many pieces are double-duty, such as King Trident’s throne, which also serves as Ariel’s grotto.

Other pieces have been recycled from earlier performances, like Prince Eric’s ship and the hand-painted backdrop.

Garland, who often works alone in his studio said that designing the sets with the students is the “one real bright spot” in his year.

“To watch them grow in confidence with the tools, building, construction and making their own decisions—it’s very gratifying,” he said.

“The Little Mermaid Jr.” stars Maggie Bradley and Tori Horne as Ariel, Jake Jacobs as Prince Eric; Thomas Easter as Grimsby; Tyler Ward and Eddie Coats as Sebastian; Sally Mackey as Flounder; Austin Hall as Scuttle; Isabel Ellis as Ursula; and Michael Soronen and Brian Tripp as King Triton and as the ship’s pilot.

Also cast in the play is Austin Hall, Kemani Iwu, Austin Griffith, Anthony Galvan as sailors; Ashanti Bell as the seahorse; Hunter Bailey as Flotsam; Sarah Margaret Veres as Jetsam; Claudia Peppenhorst as Aquata; Breanna Braxton as Adrina; Savannah Horshok as Arista; Alyssa Martinez as Atina; Abbey Polk as Adella; Mary White as Allana; Mary Randall as Carlotta; Tamia Neal, Essence Pearce, Zoie Sewell, Cheyenne Hales as tentacles; Anthony Galvan as Chef Louis; Kemani Iwu, Morneshia Turner and Tamia Neal as chefs; Claudia Peppenhorst, Breanna Braxton, Savanna Horshok, Alyssa Martinez, Abbey Polk and Mary White as princesses; Ashanti Bell, Walt Griffin, Jessica McClure as gulls; Arri Beason and Maggie Strickland as the sea chorus; Zoie Sewell and Tykia Jones as sea creatures; and Jordon Thomas,  Tamia Neal, Essence Pearce, Cheyenne Hales, Morneshia Turner, CyRosia Hill, Ashanti Bell and Kemani Iwu as lagoon animals.

Production staff includes Jody C. Tartt as the director; Madaline Ratcliff Jacobs as the musical director; Kelley Jacobs Smith as the choreographer; Layla Willoughby and Ashley Bozeman as stage managers; Lyndsey Murphy as grip; Christopher Hoven and Henry White working sound; Ashley Bozeman working the lights; Laura Peyton Thompson, Hunter Bailey and Madison Smith as make-up artists; Mary White, Christalyn Clink and Zoie Sewell as costumers; and Garland Farwell, Keisha Bruno, Layla Willoughby, Jamaal Thurmond, Brennen Gay, Javier Quintana, Brian Tripp and Jacob Boland as set designers.

Tickets to “The Little Mermaid Jr.” are available for $7 at the door.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, March 7 issue of the Demopolis Times.)