Students star in Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s ‘The Little Mermaid Jr’
IF YOU GO
What: “The Little Mermaid Jr”
When: April 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. and May 1 at 2 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Center,150 West Adams Ave., Breckenridge
Cost: All tickets are $10, general admission. Advance tickets may be purchased online at backstagetheatre.org or by calling (970) 453-0199
Cast: This production stars Isabela Imamura as Ariel, Levi Quandt as Prince Eric, Foster Krueger as Sebastian, Ceiara Seiber as Flounder, Summer Krueger as Scuttle, Arel Svenson as King Triton, Cait McCluskie as Ursula, Mikaela Clark as Flotsam, Ian Hans as Jetsam, and Selah Kreeger as Chef Louis.
The show’s director is Christopher Willard, artistic director of the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre. Music director is Lenore Giardina. Abbey Austin is choreographer. Lighting design is by Vance McKenzie. Sound design is by Robert Krueger. Costume coordinators are Nina Jannetti, Beth Fisk, and Crystal Goossen. Stage manager is Suzie Brady. Master electrician is Brecken Chamness.
Forty-five Summit County students will bring the story of Ariel, a beautiful young mermaid who longs to leave the ocean for the world above, to life on the Riverwalk Center stage. Adapted from Disney’s 2008 Broadway production, “The Little Mermaid Jr” is the second production of Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s four-week Student Theatrical Enrichment Program (STEP). The musical opens April 29, with three performances through May 1.
A LEARNING PROCESS
The STEP program provides students grades three through 12 a chance to participate in a fully-staged musical, as well as an educational opportunity to learn more about the world of theater.
“This go around, we wanted to give kids the opportunity to really experience the entire theatrical process, from auditions, to call backs, to the various stages of the rehearsal process,” said Christopher Willard, artistic director of the Backstage Theatre.
The STEP program gives kids the chance to perform onstage, but it also focuses on table work, challenging the students to think about their about their characters and to discuss the intellectual aspects of the show — then using that knowledge onstage in their behaviors, Willard said. They can then bring those ideas to the table during rehearsal.
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“Now they understood how to create a character analysis, they understand how to get inside the show and break it apart and unpack the elements of the show, and, hopefully, they learn that, and they now have a goodie bag, a tool bag that they can take with them from process to process, and that will make them better performers.”
Willard said it’s not just let’s put on a show, but to help the young performers of all ages understand what it’s like to put on a bigger scale musical.
“So they really got a true sense of what if you were doing a musical, and you had four weeks to do it, this is what you would do, this is how you would approach it,” he said.
Foster Krueger, a seventh-grader who plays the role of Sebastian, said one of his favorite parts of the program has been learning the concept of blocking.
“Everything has been enjoyable but I think my favorite part of the program is blocking it — getting familiar with the scenes,” he said. “If we make mistakes, we can laugh about it, we are still having fun.”
Krueger is no stranger to Backstage productions, with performances in “A Christmas Story,” “Oliver” and “The Jungle Book” to name a few. He also said he feels the STEP program has helped him with his singing, and he easily relates to his character in the show.
“I think I can very easily relate to Sebastian’s temperament,” he said. “He’s either super chill or really quick to anger, and that’s a lot like me depending on which side of the bed I woke up on.”
Isabela Imamura plays the role of Ariel and decided to join the STEP program because she said she’s always loved theater and singing and wants to pursue a Broadway career. She said the program has helped her meet a lot of friends she could really connect with.
This year, the scope of the production will be slightly larger than it was at the Summit Middle School, and the program is utilizing the technical facilities at the Riverwalk Center.
“We are looking forward to providing a little more visual punch and fun then when we were at the middle school,” Willard said.
Choreographer Abbey Austin said the program has worked out a lot of kinks since its inception, and “The Little Mermaid” will be a tighter production.
“My goals are always to let kids be exposed to the arts,” she said. “This is an opportunity for that, to give kids a fair chance to do something creative and fun and general exposure to the arts. I hope that it will continue to thrive so that even kids who aren’t in the show can come see it, and experience theater.”
Auditions took place in February, with practice beginning almost immediately.
“I’ve just been blown away by the amount of growth we’ve seen from the kids, and their commitment,” Willard said.
KIDS IN STARRING ROLES
The STEP program was created last year after a need was recognized for more family-friendly shows that involved all ages.
“There are very few titles out there that allow kids to have more of a starring role,” Willard said. “We recognized a maturity in our performers and a desire and a need from them to try to tackle some of these projects. And we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a program that allowed them the opportunity to take a starring role onstage and not have to be second to an adult playing those roles?’”
There are multiple skill ranges of students from beginners to those who have been in dozens of shows, and Willard said the program addresses each of the skill levels to help the students grow and try new things.
Theater also plays a role in learning about team building and developing self-confidence, he said, and opens a door to empathy.
“There is a line in a play … ‘Art is a place where you understand your whole life from, and theater is that arena in which human condition is fully explored, deconstructed and appreciated.’ I love to be able to give that opportunity to our young performers, and to see the lights go on, and to see them really get it, and really invest in it, and really begin to explore what its like to be somebody else … to be nicer to each other, to understand how important each of us are in this thing we call life.”
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