WATERTOWN — As far as school musicals are concerned these days, things are going along swimmingly at Watertown High School for the music department’s production of “The Little Mermaid Jr.” to be staged for four shows, beginning tonight.

No WHS musical was staged the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In March of 2020 we were able to perform one dress rehearsal of ‘Mary Poppins’ before the entire world shut down,” recalled Rebecca A. Rose, director and WHS music teacher. “There are no words to describe how the cast and crew felt to do all that work to never get the chance to perform.”

A school year in the hybrid/remote model would create more challenges.

“It was difficult to work in extracurricular activities like a musical,” Mrs. Rose said. “This year, we were faced with the reality that we were almost rebuilding the program back from the ground. Students who were always in the show have graduated and students who are in the program now have not had the experience of live theater and musicals. We really had to do a lot of recruitment and promotion of the musical to get our students interested in performing live theater again.”

But the musical program, Mrs. Rose said, is lucky.

“There were a lot of students that were very excited when the show and auditions were announced,” she said. “We are running a cast of 35-36 students, and a crew of 20. Fifty-five students involved is a great number to start rebuilding our musical theater program here at Watertown High School.”

WHS senior Aidan L. Barbosa, who shares the role of Sebastian with Jack Marra, is one of those students glad to be back on stage, and in front of an audience.

“When the pandemic first rolled around and kind of shut everything down, especially so close to our last show, it definitely put a wrench in our plans,” Aidan said. “It took a little bit getting used to getting back into the swing of things. But if anything, I think I can speak for the rest of the cast, it’s been a blast and it comes back naturally.”

Junior Kaidance E. LaFave, who, along with Finley Schwartz, plays Ursula, said the social aspect of school musicals was an especially notable loss the past two years.

“Going to rehearsal every day with cast, you kind of become like a little family almost,” Kaidance said. “So getting to spend time with those people and work on something that can make a lot of other people happy while making yourself happy is a real nice thing to be able to do. We definitely missed out on that before.”

Aidan and Kaidance found ways to adapt to the challenges of the past two years, which have been difficult for all students.

“I personally think the past two years definitely allowed for a lot of, I guess, mental reformation almost, like growing to better adapt to whatever changes were thrown our way,” Aidan said. “Whether it’s rehearsing with masks and trying to figure out how the mics would work, and now that masks are off, and getting back into choreography every day and vocal rehearsal. Definitely the mental aspect thickened our skin a little bit. So, I guess we’re more adaptable and flexible.”

“I agree with all of that,” Kaidance said. “I can’t speak for the whole cast, but personally, it made me appreciate more what we have here, and that even in spite of everything, in spite of the pandemic, with masks on and off and people getting quarantined, we still get to come back here to this safe community and put on something great.”

Mrs. Rose said “The Little Mermaid Jr.” was an excellent fit for this year’s musical.

“When I sat down with my team last year, we were looking for a musical that would tick a large number of boxes — a large cast with many major and minor roles, family friendly, simpler sets as we were not sure what our restrictions would look like, and a junior production to ease our costs and start to rebuild our program after the cancellation of our 2020 show. ‘The Little Mermaid Jr.’ really covered everything, and the kids really love the show and its music.”

As for the sets, Mrs. Rose said producers are doing a lot with lights, projections, and “switchable” sets, with double-sided set pieces that will be used for multiple scenes.

“And we are using the costumes to help bring the stage to life,” Mrs. Rose said. “Our talented crew and team is working hard to bring the audience under the sea with us!”

Students in the musical are in grades eight through 12th.

Characters and cast:

Ariel: Neysha Boccia-Jimenez and Julia Urf; Sebastian, Aidan Barbosa and Jack Marra; Flounder, Mia Kelly and Aubrey Thurston; Scuttle, Adriana Gibbons and Evan Autote; Ursula, Kaidance LaFave and Finley Schwartz; Prince Eric, Daniel Maurer and Joshua Marra; Chef Louis, Jonah Stone and Brendan Jenkins; Aquata, Gianna Soluri; Andrina, Kayza Limehouse; Arista, Hannah Tross; Atina, Kelsee Donato; Adella, Kayla Moore; Allana, Ally Ivy; Flotsam, Ava Hanson; Jetsam, Amelia Lynch; King Triton, Brendan Jenkins and Jonah Stone; Grimsby, Harley Wheeler; Carlotta, Hannah Tross/Kayla Moore and Kelsee Donato/Gianna Soluri and Pilot, Chip Yott.

The ensemble:

Bella Cavallario, Alicia Jones, Gavin Stone, Mason Andiorio, Addyson Charlebois, Ariana Dietz, Felicity Del Grando, Samuel Demarco, Natalie DiFabion, Kelsee Donato, Kilian Faber, Nevaeh Kelsey, Andy Merryman and Haley Shear.

Adult staff

Director, Rebecca Rose; blocking and staging, Barbara Parks; choreographer, Madilyn Eveleigh; music director, Tara Petrillose; sound, Michael Schanely; lights, Timothy Castilleja; sets, Doug Mayzel, Joe Wargo and Tyler Hanson; costumes, Jennifer Draper; props, Pinky Jennings, Nadera McAllister, Autumn McAllister and Meighan Mustizer; cast assistants and student wranglers, Meighan Mustizer, Rachel Sherman, Mary-Elizabeth Wrattan, Michael Briggs and Khrista Wargo; “paperwork helper extraordinaire,” Megan Corbett-Hanson and special show assistant, Brennan Corbett.

n n n

The details

n WHAT: “The Little Mermaid Jr.” presented by the Watertown High School music department.

n WHERE: WHS auditorium, 1335 Washington St.

n WHEN: 7 tonight and Friday night and at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday.

n COST: General admission tickets are $5. Pre-sale tickets can be purchased at the main offices of WHS and Case Middle School.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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