October 24, 2012Young actors will take a trip "Under the Sea" when Gilford Middle School puts on a production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid JR.," which is anticipated to be the first production of the play in the state since the rights were released.
More than 65 students will bring Disney's version of the classic tale to the stage in two different productions, all under the direction of theater teacher Matt Demko.
The middle school musical is put on every December; this past year's play was "Seussical the Musical." After "Seussical," Demko started looking for a new, family-friendly play. Demko said he met with the seventh and eighth graders last year to discuss possible options for the coming year
"We decided to do something big and bold and exciting," Demko said.
After the conversations with the seventh and eighth graders, the group decided to aim for "The Little Mermaid JR." if the rights had come out and the royalties were reasonable. Demko said many girls are involved in drama, making "The Little Mermaid" an especially good play with the amount of female roles it has.
He learned in May that the licensing of the show had been released, and it was possible for the production to be held at the middle school. Demko said the students seemed excited to do the play.
Auditions were held the second week of school, and 72 students tried out for parts. Demko said the goal has been for all auditioning students to get some role in the play. "Seussical" saw involvement from 60-65 students, creating the conundrum of how more than 70 kids should be involved in this play.
"It's amazing how much talent we have in the school," Demko said.
As a solution, the play was given two casts; the 'Part of your World' cast and the 'Under the Sea' cast. Each scene is rehearsed twice with the two different casts, with each cast waiting for their respective turns. Demko said this process has worked out well, and has not been that hard.
Most of the participants are eighth graders, with much involvement by the fifth, sixth, and seventh graders.
Rehearsal for the musical is usually eight weeks, though the decision was made to extend the rehearsal period to 11 weeks because of technical details with "The Little Mermaid."
The rehearsal schedule has been made easier by the end of fall sports season. Demko said around 90 percent of the students in the cast are involved in fall sports and Demko himself coaches. Maneuvering a rehearsal schedule has been difficult, but . With the end of fall sports the rehearsal schedule is much more flexible and allows for more relaxation on the part of the students and the director.
Demko said the kids have been exceedingly cooperative and have been showing their great talent.
"These kids are awesome," Demko said. "Small part, big part, they're all into it. I think they all love being here."
Gilford Middle School is anticipated to be the first production of "The Little Mermaid JR." in New Hampshire since the release of the play's rights. The production is also being done by St. Joseph Regional Junior High School in Manchester and the Bedford Youth Performing Company and professionally by Peacock Players of Nashua and RB Productions of Concord. Demko said GMS will likely be the first in the state to show the play.
"The Little Mermaid JR." will play at Gilford Middle School on Dec. 13, 14, and 15.
Leading up to the production, The Gilford Steamer will have an article every other issue documenting the different aspects of putting on this play including talks with the young players and crew.