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CHS to perform Disney “Tail” for kids of all ages

The Claremont High School Theater Department invites you to go “under the sea” this weekend as they present a family-friendly musical in the Don F. Fruechte Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. story, just became available for schools to perform. It’s a lively 45-minute version of the popular Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” which, in turn, is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name.

It follows the adventures of 16-year-old Ariel, a mermaid with a fascination with the land, who—during a forbidden excursion to the surface of the sea—spots and falls in love with the handsome human Prince Eric.

“The show is so artistic,” stage manager Allegra Fass said. “You really have to work to make it look like it’s underwater.”

In the CHS production, the title character is played by junior Naomi Almeria. A long red wig has helped transform her into the iconic Disney character. Naomi has an emotive vibrato that serves her well as she tackles unforgettable tunes like “Part of Your World.”

Freshman Emily Pocock was a big Disney princess fan when she was little, so she was delighted to find out that she had landed the role of Ariel’s nemesis, Ursula.

If you haven’t been under a shell for the last quarter of a century, you know that the über-evil octopus tempts the lovesick Little Mermaid to trade her haunting voice for a pair of legs.

Emily finds Ursula, and Disney villains in general, to be fascinating because of their history—the events that made them turn bad. With purple iridescent tentacles, she does an able job of performing tunes like the show-stopping “Poor Unfortunate Fools.” 

It all came down to preparation for Emily. “When I got the role, I watched the movie the Little Mermaid as well as Broadway versions,” she said.

Other standout performances include Reel Eltahir as Sebastian, the bossy crab who is appointed Ariel’s unwilling guardian, Sarah Hamid as Ariel’s fish friend Flounder, Liz Chua as the seagull Scuttle and Anthony Villegas as Prince Eric.

Disney’s play is being produced by students of the children’s theater class. It’s the only CHS theater course that doesn’t require its participants to audition. The class has yielded a big cast, with 81 students in all taking the stage.

And yet, it’s many of the offstage elements that really help make the show. The all-new set includes everything from a ship, sailing on waves created by students fluttering cerulean fabric, to palace both seaside and undersea. The students have been quite inventive. For instance, wooden coral is attached to the castle and can be hidden or flipped out, depending on the scene.

The lighting is designed to create a rippling underwater effect when appropriate, and to highlight the movements of an impressive parade of sea creatures. There are Ariel’s fellow mermaids, including her sisters, clad in metallic pink tail-like skirts. There are clown fish, starfish and all manner of aquatic critters.

A dress rehearsal held this Tuesday was, as all in-the-works productions, was an exercise in controlled chaos. Assistant director Destiny Dominguez and technical director Gavin Derleth were hard at work as sound, lights and stage cues were perfected.

Jamie Brown, a costume designer who works with the CHS theater department, was busy sewing costumes designed by students with an interest in fashion. These included 

CHS sophomores Lauren Haskin and Miranda Michno have an interest in fashion and designed the costumes. Lauren’s grandmother taught her to hand-sew when she was eight, spurring a lifelong passion. Miranda learned to stitch when she was in kindergarten at Sycamore Elementary and the school’s afterschool program offered a sewing class.

“I really like creating a fantasy. I’ve always done it in my head. It’s fun to have it come to life,” Lauren said.

The Little Mermaid will be coming to life on Friday, March 25 at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. and on Saturday, March 26 at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Admission is $7.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com