‘Little Mermaid’ promises family fun
The cast of Bam Theatre's "The Little Mermaid" rehearses for their upcoming show. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
BAMTheatre, Nazareth Academy, 1209 W. Ogden, LaGrange Park
7 p.m. Aug. 9-10; 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 11; 2 and 5 p.m. Aug. 12
bamtheatre.com or (630) 923-5226
Updated: August 27, 2012 8:10PM
BAMTheatre finishes its summer season with a splash, making an undersea visit with to the cheery environs of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at Nazareth Academy, Aug. 9-12.
“They (audiences) can expect a fun show they’re familiar with, the BAM flavor, and wonderful performers who are so, so, so inspiring to watch because they are so passionate about what they’re doing,” said Artistic Director Melanie Lamoureux.
Hinsdale-based BAM serves as an educational outlet for local youth all the way up through college-level students with a passion for theater each summer to gain hands-on experience, an understanding of the artistic process and to put on quality shows.
The upcoming show by the Youth Theater Program, which includes 75 actors ranging from 7-17-years-old, Lamoureux says, was selected because it’s fun and vibrant — great for kids.
“It’s been really fun with ‘The Little Mermaid’ because the kids are a little bit younger, so they’re very playful and they’re right at that stage where they’re budding into lovely artists,” said Lamoureux. “So they’re really willing to try new things and experiment. It’s a great group of kids and the talent we have in this show is unbelievable.”
Berwyn’s Max Cervantes, home after his first year at New York University where he studies musical theater, co-directs “The Little Mermaid,” which he believes will impress audiences.
“They’re going to see things you haven’t seen before in Broadway productions or other community productions of ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ” said Cervantes. “We’re taking a little spin on it.”
How to create that “under the sea” feeling has been an issue that Lamoureux and helping hands address through sets and costumes.
“Every show brings some unique challenges, but this one is fun because it’s just playful and it’s so colorful,” she said. “We want everything to be bright all the time. I try to remove myself from other productions of the same show, just so I don’t get sucked into following the path that’s already laid out.”
This will be Clarendon Hills’ Emily Sierra’s fifth BAM performance. Usually playing a villain, she changes things up playing one of the show’s three Ariels. (All lead roles have been triple-cast.)
“I really want the audience to be down under the sea with us,” she said. “I think it’s a very cute show. We have lots of little kids in the ensemble and it’s really fun to work with them and great songs.”
Adding to the underwater effects, the mermaids and other sea creatures “swim” on wheels such as Heelys (shoes with rollers embedded in the soles) and scooters.
Heelys require a bit of mastery, Sierra explains. “I started with them a couple of days ago and it’s kind of hard to keep your balance and everything, but it really does add to the effect of swimming through the water. It’s going to be really cool.”
Real family dynamic takes the stage when Shannon Johnson of Hinsdale, another Ariel, acts alongside her real-life father, Eric Johnson, who plays King Triton. She notes that at home the two don’t yell at each other as much as the two mer-folk.
Eric Johnson noted that his other daughters, Hayley and Meghan, are also in the show, and that “there are many other families with multiple participants.”
Shannon is enjoying this family affair. “It’s really fun because I’ve been able to do it with my dad too,” she said. “So he’s been helping me with how I should face the audience, and how my posture should be, and helping me with the songs.”
Giving advice is a two-way street though. Shannon gets acting tips but she instructs her dad on how to travel across stage on Heelys.
She also draws on the Disney “Little Mermaid” film for ideas. “I’ve loved the movie since I was little,” she said. “I’ve always loved the songs, and it’s really cool to be able to bring it to life to the audience. (The play) still has the magic of the movie, but with our spin on it they still get enjoyment out of it because it’s an original of ‘The Little Mermaid.’ ”