Summer Stars make a splash with ‘The Little Mermaid’

There’s nothing little about Hawaii Children’s Theatre production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.”

A total of 45 “summer stars” — ages 8 to 16 — have been rehearsing for five weeks in anticipation of the July 12 premiere, led by director Maile Speetjens.

“I can’t think of a better piece,” Speetjens said, noting that the students are able to relate to a life surrounded by the ocean.

The musical is based on the 2008 Broadway production of the musical, which used the 1989 animated film as inspiration.  

It includes the classics — such as “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” — plus three new songs from the Broadway show.  

During a Tuesday rehearsal at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse, the mini Broadway performers ran through multiple song and dance numbers.

Students — some dressed as mermaids with pipes for tails — waved long pieces of blue fabric to emulate the ocean, mimicked a ship in the midst of a lightening storm and pretended to be swimming in an underwater kingdom.

“I’m constantly impressed how focused and dedicated each child is,” Speetjens said during a rehearsal Tuesday. “Each child puts in 110 percent.”

The show is the culmination of the efforts of the Summer Stars afternoon workshops, which teaches students how to present a musical.

‘Mermaid’ double casts Athena Alexander and Jessica Palmer as Ariel and Chloe Rudinoff and Kilinoe Garcia as Ursula.

“It’s cool to see the different character interpretations,” Speetjens said. “It also means people can come and watch two shows and have two totally different experiences.”

Speetjens, an HCT alumnus herself, said she has been with the Summer Stars since its inception in 2001.

“Hawaii Children’s Theatre was already a big part of my life in middle school and high school,” Speetjens said. “I feel it’s important to pay it forward. I make sure to come back every summer to show the students what I learned.”

Speetjens currently works as a a costume professor at Colorado State University.

Before that, she attended Emerson College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in musical theater, and then received her master’s in costume design from the University of Georgia, Athens.

The Summer Stars program is designed to give students the opportunity to participate in a play from auditions to performance, plus learn theatrical skills, including stage etiquette, improvisation, scene study and character expression through choreography.

Tickets to “Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.” are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Visit www.hawaiichildrensthatre.com or call 246-8985 for details.

What: ‘The Little Mermaid, Jr.”

When: 7 p.m. July 12; 2:30 and 7 p.m. July 13; and 4 p.m. July 14

Where: Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center

Cost: $10 in advance; $12 at the door

Details: hawaiichildrenstheatre.com, 246-8985

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