Mountain Creek student-performers return to stage in 'Little Mermaid, Jr.'May 30, 2022 05:21PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
When the curtain opened at Mountain Creek Middle’s auditorium for “Little Mermaid, Jr.,” there was a buzz of anticipation and excitement, but also a quiet collective sigh of relief.
The sold-out crowd was eager for the show since in spring 2020, the Mountain Creek’s first-ever production, “Seussical Jr.” ended abruptly before it was performed with the school closure surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was two years ago this week that ‘Seussical‘ got shut down, the day right before our tech week was supposed to start,” said ninth-grader Alex McAllister during “Little Mermaid, Jr.” tech week. “So, on Monday, all the ninth graders who were in that show and are in this show came together and said, ‘let’s hope we can make it another week.’”
Alex was to have run the soundboard in “Seussical, Jr.” Now, as the stage manager, he’s been using his creativity, problem-solving and leadership skills to help coordinate the show he calls “challenging.”
“A lot of the challenge has been figuring out our cues, both backstage and in the booth. It’s also a very technical show and there’s all sorts of set changes backstage while at the same time, we’re doing all sorts of crazy lights and sound and adding things like having some ensembles on catwalks with bubble guns and a bubble video going so it makes it look like it’s in the sea. It’s a big thing trying to spearhead all of these at once and make sure it has a good flow,” he said. “It was definitely rough the first few days of tech week as we figured out when the sets came on, but we kept our heads up and figured it out.”
Alex also was part of the crew that worked for nearly two months on creating seaweed, made by melting plastic tablecloths, that adorned the auditorium.
“I love seeing little bits of it grow and come together to build a show. It’s so amazing to just see it all come together and be able to see how every person is playing their part to come together for this show,” he said. “The cast is awesome; they’re willing to take notes, listen, put in hard work and call for lights, sound, backstage sets. The show is going to be awesome, worth every bit of time we put into it.”
Auditions for the show were in January, followed by two- and three-hour rehearsals for four months leading up to the performances in April, said director Alex Waller.
“This whole school has been dying to give another show a try and put on a show again,” he said, adding that he has been thankful for help from parent volunteers, other staff members and even his mother, who helped sew the principal characters’ costumes. “I picked a show that was pretty large scale to celebrate coming back to things. It didn’t feel right to do ‘Seussical’ without the same cast."
He also felt that in addition to the tech side, the songs and characters were good challenges for student-performers. And if that wasn’t enough, much of the under-the-sea scenes were performed on wheels – roller skates, hoverboards, scooters.
“Our first week was skate week. We spent an entire week just getting used to roller skates. I just wanted to create a better illusion of being underwater. Plus, it was just an added layer of fun,” he said, adding that he also learned to skate “because I wanted to lead by example.”
Ninth-grader Elizabeth Anderson had never skated before that week.
“Being on roller skates makes it more challenging,” she said. “I used to practice every day on my own for two hours [for] two weeks after skate camp. Now I’ve finally gotten good enough where I can move around easily on stage, and I can spin and twirl when I sing.”
Elizabeth played Ariel, her first leading role, where she learned to quickly make five costume changes and perform in character. She said that dedicated time to her role outside of rehearsals.
“Her music is a lot more challenging than I’ve had in supporting roles or ensembles, so I’ve worked with four different vocal coaches trying to nail down my songs because it’s definitely a different style than I’m used to. My favorite song is ‘One Step Closer’ because I get to wear a pretty pink ball gown and that makes me really happy. I’ve never done ballroom dancing, but I learned to waltz and it’s fun to do the dance steps in my ball gown with Spencer [Bowler],” said the student-performer who would like to be on stage next fall at Herriman High, but also has an ultimate career goal to work for NASA as a mathematician and scientist.
Spencer played Eric and said that “I found myself in tune with the character – his mannerisms and everything,” and was thankful he got the part.
That was a complete turn-around from how he felt two years ago when ‘Seussical’ and his role of Horton closed.
“It was a low point because I really liked ‘Seussical’ and it was my first time acting,” he said. “When I came to the school, I didn’t feel like I fit in with any of the sports groups, so I joined theater. Once I was there, I knew these were my people. I felt like the cast and everyone really supported me, and we really grew up with each other. So I really got into it and then I was completely disheartened to know we weren’t going to put it on. I sat for a while and cried. I spent all this time with these people, I worked hard, I had relationships with people, and I couldn’t even say good-bye because everything was shut down.”
Two years later, Spencer is back on stage.
“I look back and all I really remember are the good moments in rehearsal where I learned to love acting and I got some really good connections with people who helped me get to who I am today,” he said. “I’ve learned to become more of an extrovert. I just love having interactions with people. Afterschool rehearsal is my favorite part of the day. It’s a real blessing.”
That friendship and support of the cast and crew is what ninth-grader Eddie Gardner appreciates.
The former sour kangaroo in “Seussical, Jr.” was versatile playing a seagull, chef, fish and frog in this musical as well as helping on the production side with set pieces.
“I love this cast so much,” he said. “I feel safe with this group; they’ve helped me become a better person. Through theater, I’ve become more confident and less anxious. I’ve really made some really good friends.”
One of those friends is seventh-grader Oliver Haws, who played Scuttle.
“Eddie is my best friend; we met and got close every day at rehearsal,” Oliver said. “I love the people I meet, the experience – everything about theater.”
That included learning to accept the role of Scuttle when Oliver first wanted to be Flounder.
“I originally wanted to be Flounder because there’s this one song I love to sing, but the more I thought about it, I think the directors made the right call. I’m a really good fit for Scuttle. I’m a very energetic and very friendly person; there’s a lot of me I can put into this character. It’s a fun role,” Oliver said. “I’m super excited to be on stage, with all eyes on me. I know that sounds selfish, but I like belting my voice out. It’s what my voice is made for. I love being on stage, all eyes on me and singing my heart out into this character. It’s just so amazing.”
Waller said that through this experience, his cast and crew has “grown a ton.”“It makes me proud to see them. They’ve just grown a lot more confident in themselves and in their abilities to be performers,” he said. “It’s been fun to see all of them learn how to be better people