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Westbrook High School Music Director Jake Troy on piano directs Andrea Diehl as Ariel and Olivia Archer as Sebastian in rehearsals for The Little Mermaid, which runs at the school from Thursday to Saturday, March 5 to 7. (Photo by Aviva Luria/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Westbrook High School’s (WHS) production of The Little Mermaid will be familiar to anyone who has seen the 1989 Disney animated film: There’s lovely, independent Ariel, the mermaid; Prince Eric, her human love interest; Ariel’s dad, Triton, king of the sea; his sister, Ursula, the villain; as well as a fish called Flounder and a crab called Sebastian.
“We’ve never done a Disney show before at WHS,” said Director and English teacher Nancy Malafronte. “I thought that it could be fun and The Little Mermaid seemed like the perfect fit for us. I think when people come to see the show, they will agree.”
The scene on a mid-February afternoon after school could have taken place in a professional theater’s rehearsal room. Students were scattered around a large middle-school band room, and WHS’s new music director, Jake Troy, played piano while calling out directions to the actors as they sang—without seeming to miss a note.
As Sebastian, senior Olivia Archer and a chorus of other sea dwellers urged Prince Eric, played by sophomore Ben Wallace, to “Kiss the Girl.” Waving their hands, seaweed-like, they circled Eric and Ariel, played by senior Andrea Diehl. Students were dressed in their everyday attire of jeans, T-shirts, and leggings—the red, claw-shaped pot holders Archer wore on her hands were the only nod to a costume.
Senior Elnora Amenta has the dual role of Flounder, Ariel’s best friend, and Chef Louis, the palace chef who notoriously attempts to cook Sebastian for dinner.
“I’m the designated French psycho, I guess,” said Amenta, referencing her role in last year’s Spamalot as the French Taunter, for which she wore a very tall and elaborate helmet and elicited much laughter from the audience.
Amenta, who has appeared in WHS productions since her freshman year, also serves as props designer and is creating Triton’s trident.
“It’s got a big six-foot-long thing of PVC pipe and a big wooden fork on the end of it,” she said. “It’s got sparks. It’s gonna be good.
“I’ve got my dad to help me out and Mr. [Eric] Gerhardt,” she continued. “He’s our band director and also the—I guess you’d call him stage crew and special effects, lighting, and he makes the show look good.”
Junior Jack Naccarato appeared pleased with Amenta’s description of his character’s signature prop. This is the second show in which he’s participated; the first was the school’s fall production of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Naccarato will be singing “If Only (Triton’s Lament),” which he described as “about my dead wife...And I’m the father of seven lovely daughters.
“Ursula is my sister, who is looking to get revenge on me for stealing the whole kingdom that was passed down by our father,” he explained.
It was Malafronte who encouraged Naccarato to try out theater.
“I had a lot of time on my hands and I didn’t know what to do because I wasn’t playing a sport in the fall,” he explained. “Ms. Mal kind of convinced me to join theater and said it would be fun and a lot of people regret not doing it earlier. And she was totally right. I wish I did it in my freshman year.”
Singing has been a particular challenge for Naccarato, as he’s never sung on stage before.
“I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be like during the show,” he said. “I can only imagine that it’s going to be difficult, singing in front of all those people.”
But drumming up the courage to sing in front of his friends at rehearsal was a hurdle he’s overcome. And senior Micayla Malchiodi, who plays Ursula, was encouraging.
“I think Jack’s going to do fine,” she said. “He has a good voice. Perfect pitch.”
In addition to appearing in previous WHS productions—she was Lefty in last year’s Heaven Can Wait—Malchiodi has some professional acting experience—she’s served as an extra in a film, in Law & Order, and in a Google commercial.
Malchiodi prefers scary or funny characters to major roles, she said, and Ursula is both.
Ursula “has to be scary in a way but also funny at the same time,” she explained.
The directors told her that being frightening is something that Ursula enjoys.
“In the song ‘Daddy’s Little Angel,’ she talks about how, when she was younger, all of her sisters got all the attention, and she was kind of like the ugly sister, so that’s why she’s so mad throughout the whole story,” said Malchiodi. “She wished that her dad gave her attention and she...kills all of her sisters and her dad. That’s kind of what the song is about.
“And she’s trying to get revenge on Triton, [her] brother,” she continued. “I take his daughter’s voice, because she falls in love with the prince and I try to use that against him to gain power of the sea.”
The Little Mermaid will be performed in the Westbrook High School auditorium, 156 McVeagh Road, on Thursday to Saturday, March 5 to 7, with an added Saturday matinée that will feature the show’s understudies. Tickets will be available for purchase in the Westbrook High School main office beginning in late February.
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