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First Stage Theatre Company presenting 'Little Mermaid, Jr.'

Oct. 24, 2012 @ 09:39 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington is under water again -- and this time it's a good thing.

First Stage Theatre Company has scored one of the area's first performances of the hit Disney classic, "Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr."

Based on the hit 1989 Disney classic movie, which won Grammys and Oscars for the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, "Little Mermaid, Jr.," will be presented live on stage as First Stage Theatre Company offers "Disney's The Little Mermaid, Jr." at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26-27, as well as at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Renaissance Theatre, located at 900 8th St., in Huntington.

The show features 50 young performers from the Tri-State ranging in age from high school seniors to elementary students who will also be performing three sold-out school shows as well.

The show's cast is guided by director Chuck Minsker, music director Mark Smith, choreographer Melissa McGuffin, producer Leslie Porter, assistant director Robyn Welch, set construction director Jack Welch, and costume designer Trish Woods.

Minsker said they picked the show to kick off the 23rd season because it's just packed with great songs such as "Part of Your World," "She's In Love," "Kiss a Girl," and of course, the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning song, "Under the Sea."

"The main reason we picked it is because it is so beloved by kids of all ages," Minsker said. "It has not been available for stage until very recently, so it was like it was meant to be. The show became available and we hopped right on it. It's just a fun show with great music and filled with really clever and fantastic ideas."

Adapted from Disney's 2008 Broadway production, Disney's "The Little Mermaid, Jr." tells the love story of young Ariel, a mermaid who falls in love with a human, Prince Eric, and risks everything to win his love. But she'll have to contend with her father, King Triton, and the evil sea witch, Ursula.

Taken from an 1836 Danish book by Hans Christian Andersen, the story has continued to churn up in children's literature, in operas, movies and TV shows, including a 1960s show featuring Shirley Temple as Ariel.

Unlike most First Stage productions, "Little Mermaid," is only one weekend because the kids have three sold-out school performances in addition to the four public performances.

"The school shows are great because we get a lot of kids who wouldn't maybe get to see a live performance otherwise," Minsker said. "I think a lot of people don't appreciate how great a live show is until they see these young people up there singing and dancing and doing these amazing shows."

Minsker said First Stage, the non-profit which has put on more than 50 theater shows since it was founded in 1990, has been able to give area youth an amazing experience as they get to work with such professionals as Mark Smith, who currently is the keyboardist for Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Minsker said that several performers should be commended as they have balanced doing Huntington High School's "Alice in Wonderland" a couple weeks back while also taking lead roles in "Mermaid."

"Serena Johnson was the lead in 'Alice' and is our Ariel and she's done all kinds of shows and is a wonderful talent and great person," Minsker said. "Chloe Donohoe had a main part in 'Legally Blonde' this summer and then was the caterpillar in 'Alice' and she is our Ursula. She's an amazing talent that has grown up on stage locally."

Minsker said seeing that growth of kids blossoming into wonderful performers has been the perpetual gift at First Stage, which recently hosted its first alumni concert to celebrate the legacy of First Stage and its continued crops of performers, some who are performing professionally at stages around the country.

"I think that is the secret here is that there are a lot of opportunities for theatrical stuff between us and Huntington Outdoor Theatre and all the school programs," Minsker said. "There's a lot of our alumni who've gone to college and they say what shows have you done and they have a list of 20 or so shows and these colleges can't believe it. It's not unusual for our kids to be asked to play leads when they are freshman and sophomores because experience really pays off."

"Little Mermaid, Jr." kicks off the 23rd season for Huntington's long-running children's theatre. Shows coming up this season include the holiday musical "Scrooge" and "The Bully Plays" in spring 2013.

For more information, visit www.firststagetheatre.org or call 304-416-KIDS.