A Disney favorite comes alive

MONROE – People will have a chance to travel to the depths of the ocean without leaving Union County this weekend, as drama students from Parkwood Middle School take audience members on a whimsical journey under the sea.

(Above) Students practice for their upcoming performance of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.”

(Above) Students practice for their upcoming performance of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.”

More than 30 students will take the stage for the school’s spring stage production, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.” The musical will take place Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 11, at 3 p.m. All performances will take place in the auditorium of Parkwood High School, 3220 Parkwood School Road, and tickets cost $5.

This is the sixth year in a row Parkwood Middle has put on a drama production, show director Nicole DePietro said. The school was inspired to choose “The Little Mermaid” after seeing some of the songs from the show performed at a Broadway Jr. festival.

“The kids are familiar with (the story) and enjoy it, mostly because they really enjoy the music, and we thought the kids would have a lot of fun with it,” DePietro said.

“The Little Mermaid Jr.” is a condensed version of the popular Broadway production, which includes songs from the 1989 animated Disney film and additional musical numbers not included in the movie. The school held auditions for the show in December, and performers have been working on the show since the week before their winter break. DePietro said the performers have stepped up to the plate and given their all, despite their young age.

“We definitely have some really talented singers, a great chorus,” she said. “They manage to sing and dance very well at the same time, which is something younger performers have a hard time with.”

This will be the first stage musical for Kylie Brooks, the seventh-grader playing the title character, Ariel. Kylie joined the cast after hearing how much her peers enjoyed the annual show, and she’s learned a lot about performing since rehearsals started.

“Theater has a lot more work put into it than just being on stage,” Kylie said.

Trevor Funderburk, the eighth-grader who plays Prince Eric, has been involved in musicals since his sixth-grade year at Parkwood, and agrees that shows require a lot of dedication from actors.

“It takes a lot of hard work to do these shows,” Trevor said. “It’s not just throw it together and do it – it takes a lot of time to prepare for it. But you do have fun with it.”

The one student DePietro said would likely surprise audience members the most is Bailey Boryczewski, the pint-sized eighth-grader who plays the notorious villainess Ursula.

“She’s tiny, not what you expect the person (cast as the role) to be, but she manages to fill up the stage with her presence,” DePietro said. “Even though she’s not, like, this big girl, she manages to be very intimidating and scary as a villain.”

Bailey – who insists she’s a nice person in real life – said it’s important to understand the character you’re playing, whether good or evil. Imagining herself in Ursula’s shoes has helped her embrace the character and give a more solid performance, she

“In villains, you’ve always got to think about their backstory, what happened (to them) because that’s how you understand them,” Bailey said.

DePietro said the talent involved in the show isn’t limited to the actors. About 10 students make up the stage crew, and she said she also owes a lot to musical director Daniel Stanford, as well as a grandmother who is the “fantastic seamstress” responsible for making many of the costumes. And though the sets have been challenging because the story alternates between under and above the sea, DePietro said they’ve become one of the show’s strongest points.

“It’s a good show,” she said. “We have some really excellent sets, so I think it’s going to be a really good performance.”


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