There must be something in the water out there in Essex County. Not only is the area host to a fantastic performing arts venue in Kingsville, but it’s also home to one of the best youth theatre groups in the country – Leamington’s Little Tomato Children’s Theatre.
This year’s production of The Little Mermaid Jr, which was held at Migration Hall over the weekend, was exciting to watch and easily rivaled any production held in Southern Ontario this year.
Armed with stunning costumes, an incredible sound system and a small country’s worth of talented actors and actresses, the Little Mermaid Jr marvelously transported its audience to the world under the sea, complete with all of its magical creatures (including brief appearances by some slithering turtles and even a joyful group of jellyfish).
The Little Tomatoes didn’t disappoint with this production. It was delightfully over-the-top and felt like a much more seasoned show than just a one-off production from a local children’s troupe. In fact, many of the local adult productions could benefit from watching how the show was produced – the audio was so crisp and clear that every word of the script was heard (many producers seem to forget the importance of audio and how essential it is to hear the show as well as see it).
There really wasn’t a downside to the entire production. The cast was masterfully led by Emma McDonald, who was gorgeous as Princess Ariel. Along with the delightful Morgan DeYong as Flounder and the super fun Malia Afonso as Sebastian, the trio took us on the underwater journey of a lifetime.
The classic Disney story is set in a magical underwater kingdom where a beautiful young mermaid, Ariel, longs to leave her ocean home – and her fins – behind and live in the world above. But first, she’ll have to defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, and convince the handsome Prince Eric that she’s the girl whose enchanting voice he’s been seeking.
Ryan Hallick played King Triton and brought the character to life with his surprisingly aged voice, while Larissa Porteous was radiantly evil as Ursula, and often accompanied by her two vicious moray eel companions (Rendel Arner as Flotsam and Lydia Shahmoradi as Jetsam).
The set was well made, with scene changes only taking brief moments to transition from water to land. The water scenes were enhanced even more with the use of serval actors waving long sheets of blue material, creating a dancing sea of blue as needed.
Not only are little tomatoes a delicious and nutritious part of a balanced meal, they’re also an amazingly entertaining and talented theatre troupe of superstars in the making.
If you’ve never caught a Little Tomato Children’s Theatre production, keep an eye out for when they announce ticket sales for their spring show Alice In Wonderland Jr., coming next year. I guarantee, once you’ve seen these talented little culinary vegetables in action, you’ll be hooked forever.
The Little Mermaid Jr. Cast:
Ariel/Mersister Allana – Emma McDonald
Flounder – Morgan DeYoung
Sebastian / Mersister Aquata – Malia Afonso
Scuttle/Gull – Dante Pannunzio
Prince Eric – David Sivak
Ursula / Flotsam – Larissa Porteous
Flotsam / U/S Ursula – Rendel Arner*
Jetsam – Lydia Shahmoradi
King Triton / Sailor / Chef – Ryan Hallick
Grimsby / Princess / Gull – Elise Holbrook
Seahorse – Ciarra Betlehem
Chef Louis / Carlotta – Olivia Todd Tracey
Carlotta / U/S Chef Louis – K.T. Hughes*
Pilot – Jude Mercer
Allana/ U/S Ariel – Emily Le Claire*
Aquata / U/S Sebastian – Melina Smiciklas*
Andrina – Patricia Arndt
Atina – Lauren DeYoung
Arista – Brooklyn Dobson
Adella – Emelia Santos
Princesses / Gulls
Reagan Chapman* U/S Grimsby
Emma LeBrun* U/S Scuttle
Myles Perciballi* U/S King Triton
Madeline Keirouz* U/S Flounder
Sea Creature/Lagoon Animals
Olivia Todd Tracey
Guppies and Fishies
*Understudies performed the leads in the Saturday matinee show.
Producer: Sharon Clifford
Director: Stephanie Allen Santos
Music Director: Nola McQueen
Choreographer: Becca Silvius
Set Designer/Technical Director: Fil Khan
Stage Manager: Kim DeYong
Backstage Manager: Glenda Willemsma
Set Builder: Trev Murray
Assistant Director: David Sivak
Dance Captain: Jasmine Keirouz
Scenic Artist/Sound Technician: Ruthie McLean
Set Dresser: Ruth Brown
Lighting Design: David Crowley
Lighting Director: Penny Gil
Sound Director: Pete Slingerland
Sound Assistant: Amanda Slingerland
Costume Head: Sharon Epplett
Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist: Samantha George
Props: Glenda Willemsma
Marquee Photos: Hanna Willemsma
Marquee Design: Lisa McCracken
Promotional Video: Alex Forman
Publicist/Program: Sandra Orsini