By Mike Ellis
Hinsdale Central will present The Little Mermaid as its annual musical in the school auditorium in four shows from April 20 to 22.
The cast of roughly 40 will be performing the musical version of the story, adapted from the film.
“It’ s similar in the way that it’ s still about Ariel wanting to be on land, but I think the end is a bit different than the movie,” said senior Ella Heider, who will perform in the ensemble cast. “ I think it’ s more real in the way that Eric searches for her, and it shows actual ways that humans interact; whereas the movie feels more like a fantasy.”
“ I think it’ s a really uplifting show,” said senior Lily Chrones, who will play the part of Flounder, a tropical fish and Ariel’ s best friend. “The movie version is a lot different than the musical version; there’ s a lot of added songs, the sisters are featured a lot more, the ending is different, Ursula has a different song. It’ s like the movie, but enhanced to another level.”
Unlike the musicals the drama department has produced the past two years, The Secret Garden and Fiddler on the Roof, this show is much more familiar to the cast from the outset, many of the students having watched the Disney animated film adaptation growing up.
"When you’ re little, you grow up watching The Little Mermaid, singing the songs,” Chrones said. “ I’m excited for the kids to see it.”
Heider called The Little Mermaid her “ favorite Disney movie ever,” and senior Karsen Kolnicki, who will play Arista, one of Ariel’ s sisters, said she feels this musical will reach a “ bigger audience.”
“I personally hadn’ t seen The Secret Garden before we did it, and so it was much more of a difficult process learning it if I had never seen it,” Kolnicki said. “ I wasn’ t as familiar with the music.”
Some students will be performing in their first musical at Central—and there are even some seniors in this category.
Senior Nadine Alkharrat, who moved to the school last year from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, has prior performance experience, but has yet to perform a musical at her new school.
“It’ s amazing to just get to know the drama club, and people who are just like you, like the same things you do,” Alkharrat said.
Senior Katie Connelly has been at Central all four years, but did not begin her involvement with theater at the school until her junior year.
“It’ s kind of a whole new world,” Connelly said. “I’ m really excited to see what happens with this.”
For senior Jeremy Miller, performing on stage with his peers was something he contemplated throughout his career at Hinsdale, but he never previously acted on his impulse.
“I’ ve always been a fan of what the drama club puts on,” Miller said, “ and I’ ve always thought, ‘ I can do that,’ but then I’m like, ‘ You know what, I really can’ t.’ “
Miller credited fellow senior Jack Rasmussen, who will star as the male lead Eric in The Little Mermaid, and several of his other friends for encouraging him to give it a try.
“We see it every single year: the people who come and they do this for the first time their senior year, they always say at the end of the show, ‘ Guys, I will forever regret not doing this,’“ Rasmussen said.
Due to the familiarity of the show, as with the drama department’ s production of Beauty and The Beast three years ago, local children will have the opportunity for a meet-and-greet with the actors in costume at the “Under the Sea royal party” on April 22.
“We’ ll stay in costume, and we’ ll stay in character; we’ ll meet all these kids and take pictures, and let them explore this little world,” Rasmussen said. ... “ It was amazing seeing their faces light up [with Beauty and The Beast].”
Rasmussen said he believes the production will offer something for attendees of all ages.
“It’ s something that everyone can enjoy for a whole bunch of reasons,” he said. “For starters, it’ s incredibly high-energy; you’ re going to love it the whole time, and smile, and you’ re going to laugh all throughout the show... The musical numbers are beautiful; it’ s an Alan Menken score, so it’ s absolutely wonderful music, like everything he writes is.
“Beyond that, it’ s relatable in a lot of ways. Sure, she’ s a mermaid...but she’ s expressing something that I think a lot of people feel, where she’ s saying, ‘ I’ m happy here, my life here is good, but I want to go find more.’ “
The drama department produces three plays each year, one of which is the freshman play, but it only puts on one musical.
Heider said most of the plays feature smaller casts, and Rasmussen said that while attendance is generally lower for the plays, “ [with] the musical, you can open up on Friday night, and the entire auditorium is filled.”
Kolnicki said moving the musical back a few weeks in the school calendar afforded more students the chance to participate in the production.
“People who do fall sports can’ t be in the fall play,” she said. “ But this year, the musical was pushed back a little, and so now, anyone who did a winter sport can be in the musical.”
As far as their experience in the arts at Central, seniors expressed a variety of sentiments, most of which centered on an environment of camaraderie and inclusiveness.
“It totally changed everything for me,” Connelly said. “All my friends now are in [the] drama department and [the] music department. ... They’ re such high-quality people, and people that I expect to stay in touch with for the rest of my life.”
Heider said she and Chrones “cultivated” their friendship through theater and their past musical experience at Clarendon Hills Middle School.
“I feel like no one’ s out to get each other—we’ re all happy for each other, and like a family,” Chrones said.
Rasmussen said the bond forged among the male cast members in the musical is “ insane.”
“I remember freshman year, all the guys were talking before the show,” he said, “ and one of the seniors said, ‘ There might be guys that will make fun of you, saying you should be playing sports, you should be doing that, but if you can look at them and say, “ Hey, go put on your costume, and sing and dance in front of the entire school,” that’ s a lot more brave than putting on a football helmet.’ “
The Hinsdale Central drama department will perform The Little Mermaid from April 20 to 22 in the school auditorium, directed by Domenico Maniscalco, chief human resources officer at District 86. The Thursday and Friday shows will be held in the evening, while two performances will occur on Saturday.