BRUSHY PRAIRIE — Dive under the sea to see how the merfolk live Friday and Saturday as Prairie Heights Middle School thespians present “The Little Mermaid Jr.” on the stage in the Brice G. Diehl Auditorium at Prairie Heights High School.

Sixth grade student Chloe Kintz stars as Ariel, the red-headed mermaid with big dreams in hear head.

Her goal when auditioning for the show, she said, was to be Ariel. She said her mom told her she’d never get the role.

“What makes this show special is I’m technically a princess,” Kintz said. “When I was younger it was my dream to become a princess.”

Just like the Disney movie version, Ariel is rebellious against her father, King Triton, and Kintz said that’s one of her favorite parts of being involved in the show. She also enjoys having fun with her best friend, Mya Wilhelm, who plays Ariel’s best friend Flounder.

Wilhelm said her favorite part is being someone she isn’t when she takes to the stage.

“I have always loved The Little Mermaid,” she said. “When I went to Disney World I cried when I saw Ariel. This play just brings back memories and makes me feel like I am 6 again.

With a large cast of elementary-age students, many older cast members agreed one of the biggest struggles was working with the younger children and helping them learn the ins and outs of theater.

Grace Johnson, a seventh-grade student who has done a lot of choreography work along with assistant director Sheila McCrea, said getting the younger actors to stay in position and stop talking was definitely a hard part for her.

“She has the choreographer’s eye,” McCrea said of Johnson. “In this show, the dancers are the real hidden heroes.”

With a lot of dance numbers, show director Chris Ellert said he’s put his middle school chorus members in more songs than is normal, but they’ve really stepped up and done well to make it all work.

“To learn that many songs in such a short time is pretty phenomenal,” he said. “With sports and school, too, this cast has all shown just how good they are.”

Ellert said it has been crazy with such a large cast, but it has also been nice to work with everyone.

“We had tons of elementary students audition that we just couldn’t use due to space,” he said. “While the middle schoolers are the high school future, the elementary (students) are our middle school future.”

Scuttle the seagull is played by eighth-grader Emma Crites. It’s a role she said she’s excited for because Scuttle is so outgoing and bold.

The easy part, she said, has been memorizing all of her lines.

“The songs get stuck in my head and it makes the lines stick better, too,” she said.

Crites is one of two students Ellert said has come a long way since coming to the theater in fifth grade.

The other, Tom Severe, plays the roles of the chef and the boat pilot.

“I get to really steal the show when I attack Sebastian,” Severe said. “Since the fifth grade I have matured as an actor and really built up my skills.”

Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s eel spies are played by theater veteran Jacob Crites and theater newbie Jake Stoy.

Both agreed that while choreography could be a challenge, its fun being able to be someone new and silly.

Emily McCrea, another theater veteran, plays the role of Ursula the sea-witch. This show is special, she said, because she’s always been a fan of Disney movies, with this one being near the top of her favorites list.

In addition to a scene where she falls into the pit, she also enjoys the fun things she gets to do with Flotsam and Jetsam.

Her performance, she said, is dedicated to her friend ConLei Walworth.

“I can’t wait to see your smile again in Heaven someday,” McCrea said in her dedication. “Even though you are gone from this earth, I know God received an amazing angel because you were better than words could describe.”

“The Little Mermaid Jr.” takes to the stage Friday at 7 p.m. and then Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now online, and, unless they sell out, will be available at the door before each performance. Seats are assigned and will be printed on each ticket.

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