It’s important to note that the Hoboken public school district’s performance of “The Little Mermaid,” which premiers at the Junior-Senior High School this Friday, is technically called “The Little Mermaid Jr.” The rights to the regular show aren’t available because it’s currently in the middle of a run on Broadway, and though Hoboken’s production is missing a few numbers and is a bit truncated for time, the cast says that you’d never even know it’s not the real thing.
“I don’t think that anyone watching the show is going to notice that this is a mini-version,” said Gia Santiago, the seventh grader playing Ariel. “This show has the same amount of integrity, the same amount of energy. And it’s not any easier to pull off than the bigger version either.”
No, the audience won’t be able to tell the difference. With upwards of 120 students ranging from first grade to 12th (from nearly all of Hoboken’s public schools), the show is likely to be a classic crowd-pleaser.
“Little Mermaid Jr.” premiers on Friday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hoboken Junior-Senior High School auditorium located at 800 Clinton St. Subsequent performances will take place on May 17 and May 18 at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.
The story hasn’t changed from the original Disney film – Santiago plays the mermaid princess Ariel, whose curious disposition lands her (no pun intended) in the world of humans, where in true Disney fashion, she falls in love with the handsome Prince Edward (Wallace Elementary sixth grader Joey Sobolov). Her friends Scuttle (Wallace Elementary sixth grader Zoe Mattesich) and Flounder (Wallace Elementary first grader Ames McNamara) keep her company, while the evil sea witch Ursula (Brittany Colon) attempts to destroy Ariel’s quest for happiness. All the while, Ariel’s father’s counsel, the crab Sebastian (seventh grader Angel Quinones), tries to keep tabs on Ariel’s mischief.
The show is one of two annual district-wide productions in Hoboken, giving younger children the opportunity to work in unison with older and more mature students, an opportunity which the show’s director allows all the students an invaluable learning experience.
“Our younger kids get the chance to develop real theater skills from a young age and they get to do it surrounded by kids who have had years of training,” said Danielle Miller, who also teaches drama at the high school. “By the time they get to the high school, where we do more rigorous productions, these kids are already on their way. This is the way to develop a really strong theater program in the district.”
The kids in the show agreed that working with kids older than then (and younger) made working on the show that much more rewarding.
“I’ve never worked with older kids before, only my friends in my class,” said McNamara. “It’s great to make friends with these kids that I would never know if I wasn’t in the show.”
Likewise, Mattesich said that she finds working with the younger students to be charming.
“They’re always so excited to be at rehearsal and work on the show,” she said. “It’s like they show up and immediately run to hug you, it’s really nice.”
A fourth grader from Wallace School, Emily Jacobelli, who plays a princess, a fish, and a seagull, said being with her friends was the best part of the show.
“I love being in the play because I get to sing and dance with my friends,” she said. “I especially love learning new songs.”
Tickets for the show cost $7 regular admission, $5 for students, and $3 for seniors. Kristen Dziuba did the choreography and Guinevere DiPiazza served as musical director. For more information, visit http://www.hoboken.k12.nj.us/hoboken/HHS/Hoboken%20High/Theater/.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org