By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Looking for some musical entertainment this weekend? You could always take a trip under the sea with Highland Middle School.
Singing mermaids and seagulls, tentacles and a prince are just a few attractions of the school’s spring production: Disney’s “Little Mermaid Jr.” The musical is essentially the Disney animated movie played by younger actors.
Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Eighth-graders Kaitlyn Malone and Devin Welch play Ariel the mermaid and Prince Eric, respectively.
Malone went for the role because the mermaid is her favorite Disney princess. She even dyed her hair red for it.
“It’s very fun,” Welch said. “I’m a Disney freak.”
His father worked at Disney for 17 years running attractions. His mother worked there for a bit in the vacation club. They actually met there, Welch said.
Neither he nor Malone ever thought they’d play a Disney character, though.
Welch said he’s a little nervous about impressing his parents while Malone is actually shy by nature.
“You get on stage and just forget who you are,” she said.
Ariel is her first leading role, but she’s seen all of the “Little Mermaid” movies more times than she can count.
“I think about what the character would do (when I’m acting),” she said.
Prince Eric, on the other hand, doesn’t have as big a role in the movie, so Welch doesn’t have as much to work off. But he said he gives every character he plays a little bit of his “own flavor.”
The kids have been practicing since March, before spring break, and have rehearsal all week to get everything down.
“The kids are awesome,” Highland drama coach Karen Sipes said. “They’re so, so enthusiastic and dedicated.”
This year, the school received grants from both Target and the Anderson Education Foundation to help put on the production.
The community also chipped in by buying ads for the show’s program.
“There was so much community help this year it gives me chills,” Sipes said.
With the money, the school had enough to buy a sound system they’d rented before, she added.
Eighth-grader Joe Kirkpatrick is the sound tech and works on the production with his twin, who’s the student director. While acting isn’t his thing, Kirkpatrick likes working with technology and is still happy to contribute to the show.
“I like appreciating what goes into it without being up there (on the stage),” he said.
Sipes said it’s almost a mystery how everything — the music, choreography, costumes, set designs, etc. — comes together in time for the first show, “but it always does.”
This year’s production features 50 students in the cast and 20 in the crew.
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