JANESVILLE—There are plenty of fish in the sea. That’s one of the reasons Parker High School picked “The Little Mermaid” for its next theatrical production.
Along with its colorful imaging and heartfelt message, the Disney classic’s large collection of characters allows for the casting of many young thespians.
“We are at almost 50 kids for this,” said director Jim Tropp. “We had a lot of kids that wanted to be in it and who knew the music, which is very similar to the movie. And there are a lot of strong solo parts where you have a lot of kids that need to sing, so it works.”
Audiences get their first chance to see how well it works when the show debuts at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at the school, 3125 Mineral Point Road. Seven more performances also are planned across the weekends of Nov. 9-11 and 16-18.
“We have to do eight shows or we don’t have enough tickets to sell,” Tropp said. “If we did just the standard weekend shows, we would have to turn people away. We learned that the hard way. Eight performances seems to be enough to satisfy the audiences that want to come to the shows.”
Tropp, joined by music director Jan Knutson and choreographer Michael Stanek, expects “The Little Mermaid” to be the next in a long line of theatrical successes at Parker. And if student excitement is any indication, he’s likely onto something.
“When we pick shows, we ask ourselves, ‘Do we have the kids to do this? Is it palatable to the kids? Are the going to be attracted to this?’” Tropp said. “We were looking at ‘Les Miserables,’ but that felt stale with the kids.
“When we brought up ‘The Little Mermaid,’ I had kids saying, ‘You’ve go to do it.’ That was the big reason for it,” he added. “It has to be what the kids get excited about doing, not what we want to do. We also have to look at the talent we have.”
In addition to having the right cast, Tropp said it’s crucial a play has the right “feel.” With “Little Mermaid,” he promises a visual experience focused on atmosphere rather than elaborate set designs.
“Set-wise, things will be minimal because the show doesn’t lend itself to much of that,” Tropp said. “But we’re going to paint some beautiful pictures, and Parker has a new lighting system and an incredible lighting designer, so it’s all going to be beautiful.”
Parker’s production also will offer those “little extras” for which Tropp productions have become known.
“We’re going to do some flying to simulate swimming sequences, we’ll be re-creating some Broadway effects, and the kids will be wearing Heelys (shoes with rollers in the soles),” he said. “And the costumes are going to be incredible; we’re renting a lot of them from a professional house. Visually, there’s going to be a lot of eye candy.”
Parker’s production marks the second time in less than two years that “The Little Mermaid” has been seen on a local stage. Rock River Repertory Theatre, another group associated with Tropp, performed its version in January 2017 in Edgerton.
But Tropp isn’t concerned about resurrecting the show too soon, stating he has made notable changes that will keep Parker’s effort fresh and new.
“Whenever I repeat a show, I have to take a different view of it,” he said. “I don’t redo things. I feel theater is an art form that continuously needs to change. You hear about directors who do things multiple times and keep their notes and scripts. I don’t do that. I will visually change this from what they saw (with Rock River Rep) so it’s a completely different show.”