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Friday, November 16, 2018

“The Little Mermaid” gives students a chance to shine onstage and off

The "Little Mermaid" cast

By Elizabeth Richards

Putting on a Disney show is an ambitious undertaking, and Windham High School pulls it off beautifully in their production of “The Little Mermaid”.

From the acting, singing and dancing, to costumes, lighting, special effects and sets, the show is magical from Ariel’s first moments on stage to the final scene. Windham has some amazingly talented students, and they shine in this familiar tale.

Countless hours must have been spent creating the sets and costumes that brought this story to life. Creating an underwater world on stage is tricky at best, but this cast and crew pulled it off beautifully.
This year, younger students filled some of the main roles, including freshman Emma Chasse as Sebastian and sophomore Denali Dieumegard as Ariel.

Chasse, who said she’s been acting since second grade, brought Sebastian to life with a quirky walk and delightful expression. Chasse said she was overwhelmed at first, but by a couple of weeks before the show opened, she was taking it all in stride and enjoying every minute. “It’s my first high school show, and I’ve waited for this for such a long time. It’s so crazy!” she said. 

https://www.egcu.org/cashDieumegard said she’s been acting since kindergarten, and has performed at Schoolhouse Arts Center, Breakwater School and Windham Middle School.  She said she has always loved the character of Ariel and wanted to play the role. “It was a really nice surprise, getting the role. It’s a dream, honestly.”

Listening to her sing, it’s easy to hear why she was cast. Her voice is strong and steady, and it’s easy to believe that it would capture the attention of a handsome prince. Her mannerisms portrayed Ariel’s innocence and longing for a different life nicely.

Dieumegard said the cast is like a family. “They’re all so kind and inviting. It really is a cool community,” she said.

Each role seemed perfectly cast. It can be difficult to bring such well known characters to life in a unique way, but each performer did just that. The ensemble moved in sync to clever choreography, their voices blending perfectly, to create dynamic numbers that were incredibly fun to watch. Some numbers were funny (Will Searway as Chef Louis in Les Poissons had the audience roaring with laughter) and some more touching and sweet. All were well executed and engaging.

It was clear from the quality of the production that the talent extends well beyond the stage.  Scene transitions went smoothly, and lighting cues and special effects were right on time. The costumes were amazing, and clearly the product of a lot of hard work.

Some older students had the opportunity to take on leadership roles that extended beyond their on-stage presence. Damara Stratis, who played a gull, was the dance captain and Travis Burt, who played Prince Eric, was the Assistant Director. 

Both have been involved in theater for many years, and as seniors were excited to take on these leadership roles. Their interest in getting involved beyond performing was sparked when they did “Kiss Me Kate” as sophomores, Stratis said. She said she has loved watching everyone grow as the show came together. “It’s teaching me more about responsibility and being a good role model,” she stated. 

Ariel (Denali Dieumegard) and Ursula (Corrine Ulmer)
Being that role model makes the production more about community instead of just the individual, Stratis added. “This really does give a good sense of community.

Stratis stated that after high school, she’s interested in going into occupational therapy. “That is very much about helping people and supporting people. This is kind of prepping me for that,” she said. “I think it’s really going to help me in my career.”

Burt was student director last year for the “Sound of Music” as well.  “Having my own thoughts and my own creativity being portrayed on stage was an amazing feeling to me,” he said. 

This year, Burt said he handled more scenes and was trusted to take control when Juergens was busy. “I have felt like I’ve grown more mature from it,” he said. “I feel like it’s really helped us become who we are.”

Burt said he wanted the other students to trust him, just as he trusted older students when he was younger.  Having the responsibility of assistant director has made him more responsible, he said, and he can carry that through to college and beyond. Burt is interested in studying acting, and direction, in college.  “I’ve enjoyed taking control and being able to create and invent my own show,” he continued. “You aren’t just focused on you yourself, you’re focused on the entire show as a whole; you’re not just inventing a character and making it grow, you’re making sure that the entire cast grows as a whole,” Burt said.

The performance I saw was evidence that the entire cast and crew worked cohesively, coming together to put on a production so good I had to remind myself it was a high school show. The show runs for one more weekend, on Friday November 16 at 7 p.m.; Saturday November 17 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, November 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for children, students, and seniors at the door. Reserved tickets are $14 and can be purchased at www.whsfallmusical.weebly.com.



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