Cherry Hill West Theater ready to dive under the sea with its spring musical, “The Little Mermaid”

Cherry Hill residents will have a chance to dive under the sea at Cherry Hill High School West’s spring musical, “The Little Mermaid.” The show will premiere at Cherry Hill West on Friday, April 1 and run through Sunday, April 10.

This is the second consecutive year Cherry Hill West Theater is performing a Disney show for its spring musical. Last year, the show was “Mary Poppins.” Cherry Hill West was one of the first high schools to perform the musical as the rights had just been released. It will be the same case for “The Little Mermaid.”

“We wanted to do something when it was released, and we were lucky enough to get the rights,” musical director Carolyn Messias said.

The idea of performing the musical version of the popular Disney animated film was exciting for many of the students, most of whom are very familiar with the movie.

“I literally watched this movie about 75 times in a row,” said sophomore Karla Rios, playing the character of Scuttle. “It’s just a classic childhood tale.”

“I prepared nonstop,” said senior Haley Rossel, playing the lead role of Ariel. “I practiced all the time because I loved Ariel. I tried really hard to be that part.”

One actor, sophomore Michael Lazarow, said he hadn’t seen the movie until just before auditions. Lazarow is playing the role of Prince Eric.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘You should do Prince Eric,’” Lazarow said. “I thought that would be fun. I did the musical last year and I really enjoyed it.”

Senior Sean Dugan is performing in the spring musical for the first time this year. He was surprised when he landed the role of King Triton in the show.

“I was expecting to be bubble No. 3,” Dugan joked. “When my name popped up as Triton, that was so exciting.”

A number of special effects will help set the tone for the film. To help simulate swimming, many of the charters will be wearing heelies, shoes with roller wheels built into them.

Another new special effect this year will be the use of a projection screen. Messias said the screens will be used in lieu of backdrops and hopes they will enhance the scenes.

The school will also use the Flying by Foy theatrical flying system in a number of scenes. The same system was used successfully in “Mary Poppins” last year and is being brought back for this year’s show.

“It’s those magical moments where we’re going to have Triton fly out, when Ursula uses the trident,” Messias said.

A number of Cherry Hill West staff members and other community volunteers help make the flying system work. Many of them worked on the system last year and are back again this year.

“It wasn’t that difficult,” Richard Bogan said about working on the flying system last year. “We had somebody cue us every time.”

Aliza Katzen, an eighth grader from Beck Middle School playing the role of Flounder, is one of the actors who will be flying in the show. She admitted she was most excited about jumping into the harness and taking off for the first time.

“I’m ecstatic to fly,” Katzen said. “I’m so excited.”

Also returning this year will be a character breakfast prior to one of the shows. This year’s breakfast will be on Sunday, April 3 at 11:30 a.m. before the 2 p.m. matinee.

The character breakfast is something many of the actors are looking forward to.

“I like interacting with the kids in previous shows,” said junior Angelina DiFelice, playing the villain, Ursula. “It’s really interesting. I’m just afraid they’re going to be scared of me, though.”

“The character breakfast I’m expecting kids to ask why I’m such a meanie to Ariel,” Dugan said. “I’ve been trying to think of good responses.”

“I can’t imagine how they’ll be when they see a princess,” Rossell said. “It’ll be really cool.”

As an added feature to this year’s breakfast, Adventure Aquarium will be in attendance with a touch tank where guests can pet a number of fish.

Messias expects there to be a lot of children in the audience for all six performances, saying the show is the perfect opportunity for kids to get their first taste of theater.

“This is a great way to introduce children and middle schoolers to theater at a reasonable price,” she said.

The actors realize most of the audience will be familiar with the show, and they want to uphold Disney’s high standards on stage.

“I want to give the audience ultimately their expectations for the show,” Rios said. “It’s something out of their childhood.”

“You want them to come away with the Disney experience,” Dugan added. “Even though this is a high school, we can pull it off.”

Performances of “The Little Mermaid” will take place on April 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. and on April 3 and 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. The character breakfast is on April 3 at 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include a ticket to 2 p.m. show. Tickets can be purchased online at showtix4u.com. For more information, call (856) 663–8006 ext. 1224.

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