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Underwater undertaking: East Ridge Theater dives into ‘The Little Mermaid’

When it comes to staging the musical version of a Disney animated movie classic, it pays not to tread (water) too lightly, said the director of the fall musical at East Ridge High School.

This is no mere maid, after all - the Disney animated version of the Hans Christian Andersen story is beloved by generations. But too much reverence can be stifling.

The challenge is to stay true to the story while avoiding a slavish recreation of the movie, said Amanda Hestwood, an English teacher who will be directing the show at East Ridge.

"With 'The Little Mermaid,' it's living up to the Disney standard." she said. "Our audience members have a certain expectation coming in, related to what it should look like and what it should feel like.

"Certainly we want them to have that experience but we have to balance that. We don't simply want to recreate the film."

The sentiment is shared by East Ridge senior Quintin Walker. He plays everyone's favorite crustacean, Sebastian the crab.

Walker, 17, said the biggest challenge is "finding the balance between interpretation and imitation, because all of these characters are characters we grew up with and the audience in the show are growing up with. We've had fun taking on these characters and giving them their own twist."

The cast is heading into tech week.

"We're definitely using every minute that we have to get all the final touches done," Walker said. "It's crunch time but we're definitely excited to get to opening night."

He wore the red crab costume when he and his fellow cast members did an in-store appearance at Jerry's Foods Oct. 16. They sang some songs from the show, did crafts with kids and posed for photos.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was the first time that people were able to hear what we're working on."

Sophomore Kat Grannis, who steps into the shoes — or into the tail — of the title character, will be playing her first lead role in an East Ridge production. She said she was thrilled to play Ariel at Jerry's, where she said she acquired some young fans.

"I have three pictures that kids drew of me on my wall," she said.

Grannis, who just turned 16, said the cast and crew are keen to conjure the Disney magic but also to put their own stamp on the show.

"It's such an iconic show," she said.

East Ridge alumnus Kajsa Jones will serve as assistant director of the show.

If you go

The Little Mermaid runs at the Loft Stage at East Ridge High School. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4-5 and Nov. 11-12; and 2 p.m. Nov. 6 and Nov. 13.

Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.

A gala fundraiser for the school theater program takes place at 6 p.m. Nov. 4. The $10 admission includes food catered by The Tamarack Taproom, kids events and live music from a steel drum band.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 651-425-2334 or visit

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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