Little Mermaid Jr. makes “splash” in Van Meter

The cast of The Little Mermaid Jr. stands for applause at the end of Friday’s production at Van Meter Hall. The play featured an all-youth cast and performed for area schools.


Van Meter Hall went underwater, more specifically, “under the sea.”

The Arts Education Task Force transformed the venue for a production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid, Jr.” The show will be a two-day run, with a noon performance for schools, evening performances tonight and tomorrow night, and will wrap up with a matinee public performance at 3 p.m. All shows are in Van Meter Theater.

Directed by WKU musical theater alumnus Christopher Cherry, “The Little Mermaid, Jr.” is a version of the popular Disney film set for a younger audience. The story centers on Ariel, a young headstrong mermaid, who falls in love with a human prince and tries to win his heart by turning into a human.

The show includes well-known songs from the movie, such as “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea,” and songs from the Broadway show, like “She’s in Love” and “One Step Closer,” as well.

All students involved in the junior production ranged in ages from seven to 17, AETF coordinator Allyson Hohman said.

“We were so nervous at first because there are so many little kids in the show, but they’ve all done a really excellent job,” Hohman said.

Fifteen-year-old Caroline Ford, who plays the evil sea witch Ursula in the show, said “Little Mermaid” was the first AETF show she’s done and has loved performing it.

“I love acting because you can escape into the character and be someone you’re not,” Ford said. “It’s so fun to play Ursula, not only because she’s iconic, but because I’m nothing like her.”

Steven Montgomery, 17, a student at South Warren High School, played Sebastian, a crab who is Ariel’s advisor and friend.

“I think the best part of working with the AETF program is getting back with the director, Christopher,” Montgomery said. “I worked with him back when I started doing this in 2004 at the Sunburst Youth Theater.”

Montgomery said his favorite part of performing in “Little Mermaid” is making the kids who see the show happy.

“They like Disney,” he said. “They really like their Disney.”

Tyler Griffith, 17, is another South Warren student involved in the performance. Griffith played Prince Eric, Ariel’s love interest for the show, and said he’s enjoyed playing such a relatable character.

“He’s somebody who wants to do well in life and rebel kind of at the same time,” he said. “He also just wants to fall in love with someone who understands him.”

Like Ford, Griffith said “Little Mermaid” was his first AETF show. He said he was asked to audition by some of his friends at school.

Caroline Ford’s mother, Robyn, encouraged her daughter to get involved in theater.

“We started out with soccer, and we learned very quickly that was not going to be her gift,” Ms. Ford said with a laugh. “I noticed when she was very young that she would sing and dance to her Lion King DVD, so I knew that would be something she’d love to do, so we started looking for programs.”

Costume designers Amy Vaughan, in her third AETF show, and Sara Jones, in her first AETF show, thought the show has been a success so far.

“This is the biggest show AETF has done,” Vaughan said. “It’s the first full musical we’ve done, too.”

Vaughan and Jones faced the challenge of dressing two casts, not one. Vaughan said there is a cast using older children in the lead roles and another cast using some of the younger children in the leads. She said it gives both groups the ability to learn in different roles in the production.

“AETF’s primary goal is education through art,” Vaughan said.

Jones said AETF provides kids great opportunities through their productions.

“I like that they’re providing the opportunity for children to learn theater from behind the scenes and also provide the same opportunity to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see live theater,” Jones said.