Two years ago, our team at Iowa Central was thrilled to bring a Disney musical to the stage – and Newsies was the perfect fit for these talented students. In fact, this hit show ended just as the COVID outbreak swept through the nation and changed, well, everything. We had no live production during the 2020-2021 school year… so when we turned the lights back on this year, we decided to come back with another dose of Disney magic starring – The Little Mermaid.
I love so many elements of this show, one of which is its many universal elements. Some may have come across this story from the original Hans Christian Andersen tale or the animated classic created by Disney. The stage adaptation of the story – with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and book by Doug Wright – retains the original film’s most beloved songs and moments while deepening the relationships and the foundational themes, adding layers that form an even more moving and relevant story: a young man and a young woman who struggle to understand their place within their family while trying to pursue their own dreams; it is about breaking down the barriers of those who fear and misunderstand each other, taking risks and facing evil with bravery and dignity. I particularly enjoy how King Triton and his relationship with Ariel are developed in the stage version, as well as Prince Eric’s connection to his guardian, Grimsby. I think these moments will resonate with all parents who have endured perhaps the most difficult parenting stage of all time – letting go. And then, of course, there’s the thrilling music – the delightful dancing – the colorful costumes – the lights and moving images – all the spectacular elements that elevate a good story to a remarkable and memorable experience.
As a director, I always appreciate storylines that offer variety, and this show has it all. From the melodrama of good versus evil, to the mix of comedy and drama, to the combination of parental and romantic love, even including the bickering of siblings and the loyalty of true friends. Each rehearsal finds me in a completely different place depending on the scene we are practicing. I love directing the sea witch, Ursula and her evil eels as much as I love working with the strength of sailors or the teasing of sisters or the adoring love of Flounder and the zaniness of Scuttle – it’s always a new space! And quite honestly, it’s fun. I’ve always found that when performers are having fun, audience members join in vicariously. I sometimes find myself pausing to simply savor the moments when I hear the laughter of our students echoing through the rehearsal spaces of Decker Auditorium. It’s like we’ve missed a year of that laugh – and it’s all the sweeter now for its return.
Plus, imagining we’re in warm ocean waters or a pretty seaside castle is a perfect way to endure the grip that winter can have on Iowa from January through February. So what better way to spend an evening than with us as we bid farewell to winter in early March?
Iowa Central’s professional team continues to bring a wealth of experience and depth to guide our students. I continue to helm the show’s direction – in fact, this is my 25th musical in Iowa Central. I’m a huge fan of my fellow directors here – Will Lopes on vocals and Paul Bloomquist on the band side. And, as always, I cherish working with our hometown choreographer extraordinaire, Emily Eastwood. Our technical team is led by Ashley Garst as Technical Theater Coordinator, as she designs lights, costumes and prop design and also works closely with my volunteer Set Design and Construction Manager. husband, Joseph Jackson. Scott Deuel completes our team on the construction of the platform, as does Paul Bloomquist who joins us after pit training. We mourn the loss of our beloved Andy Anderson on sound design, but gratefully welcome his business partners, Mike and Rachelle Weideman, who graciously filled that void for us.
The Little Mermaid opens March 2 with a matinee at 9:00 a.m. for schoolchildren and retirement communities. Then we continue with evening performances at 7:00 p.m. March 3-5 at Decker Auditorium. Tickets are on sale now through Iowa Central Bookstore. Customers can either order online, drop by campus or call 515-574-1081. We ask that anyone pre-ordering tickets to be held at the door arrive at least 10 minutes before show time. Once we begin pre-show announcements at 7:00 a.m., all unclaimed tickets will be distributed to those waiting for seats. The cost for adults remains $15 and students $5, with Iowa Central students attending free.