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Don't be fooled - Little Mermaid is HARD

The MTI Show Collection
Related MTI Shows: Disney's The Little Mermaid JR. 
B. Robert Thompson:

We just finished performing this show this past weekend, and let me tell you - it was a difficult run. The kids did "okay", but were very upset because of the difficulty of this show. TONS of music and cues. TONS of set changes. Special lighting effect, sounds cues, lots of costumes, difficult staging requirement - and high G abound and can't really be changed or fixed. Just hope you have some high singing sopranos! Just a lot of stuff to do and take care of.

BUT the worst part, was the score. It is nearly impossible to play (I don't know who the arranger was - but they obviously *don't* play the piano. A 3rd of it was hard, a 3rd was very hard, and a 3rd of it was impossible to play. Literally impossible because of the writing. Notes out of the reach of your hands and very difficult cross patterns and runs. You would think they would have "dumbed it down" a bit for the general music market, but they didn't - so be prepared to use the CD). Also, many, many mistakes and typo in the actual score. So spend a day going through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure you are doing it right.

I had kids in tears on the first show day - and we were *well* prepared. Lovely show, just very, very hard to pull off in the general music market. sigh.

(661 days ago)
Susan Huizinga:

This is so interesting. Thanks for the feedback. We are doing this show in an elementary school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in April. Any help is greatly appreciated. I will probably be using the CD.

I was more concerned with the costume & set requirements than the music. Thanks for the heads up.

I've done several Junior shows, and really, they are not as easy as one would think, but that's okay as long as you know what you are getting into. I do full productions at one of my middle schools; not the junior versions.

May I ask if it is possible to see pictures of sets/costumes?

Sue

(660 days ago)
Cindy Ripley:

One thing I am proud of with the entire Broadway JR and MTI Kids collection, is that the range of difficulty is from easy to difficult.  When teachers ask advice,(and it is marked in our catologs) about the difficulty of a show, we can suggest one that fits their level of experience without hesitation.  Disney's Little Mermaid JR is a BIG show, just about anyway you look at it.  It has an abundance of music that has been edited to be as authentic as possible to Menkin's original and still be accessible to young performers. Experienced teachers know how to adapt it for more accessibility for their kids by adding voices to some solo parts, not using the high octaves and making other smart but necessary musical adjustments. A brand new teacher? Possibly make another choice for a first show. These shows are also DESIGNED to use the accompaniment CD so that the directors can spend time doing what they need to do, or saving budget on an accompanist and STILL have an accompaniment true to the score.  If these were simplified to another level, the directors that use them hoping for a piano/vocal they can perform and arrange from would be dissappointed also.  There is an amazing amount of time and expertise that goes into these studio recordings so they are rewarding for this age voice to perform with and sound good. If you choose to perform with the PV and rhythm section, plan on it being more like the original score.

Little Mermaid has been one of the most sought after titles in this collection in years. Is it the easiest title? No.  Is it for a grade k-5 performance?  Maybe not, yet I can put anyone in touch with a group that adapted it MORE than successfully for 3 different levels.  Sometimes directors want a title so much that the extra efforts to make it accessible for their kids is worth it, and I have seen teachers jump into this without a look see or perusal because they love the music. (So do I!).  My suggestion is take a look and order a perusal, email and ask other teachers, call me if you have concerns about your choice. It is a wonderful show and CAN be done simply to showcase the story and your kids OR it can be done with every bell and whistle into a "Part of Your World" your audience has never experienced.  Rewards are big if you do your homework!   C.

(659 days ago)
B. Robert Thompson:

I understand and appreciate the fact that the JR. lines go from easy to hard. But, this one is exceptionally hard. I guess it's really my own fault for not ordering a perusal score first. I have done many of your shows in the past, and I guess I assumed this title would be suitable for upper elementary/Jr high school. But I was wrong.

This edition is very close to the original. To much in fact I think. I really thought about using the CD, but then that meant I would have to use all of the music on the CD. Which would have meant choreographing TO the CD. The incidental music it oddly long in the score you have produced. Thus, by using the CD, one cannot have any cuts! So I had to use the PV score. The "Dingle-Hopper" song in particular is extremely hard to pull off. It's in 6/8 and moves at a very fast clip and ends in the key of B. I am an experienced pianist, but I had to edit, edit, edit. And it's range is high AND low. My Scuttle was a great actor and pretty good singer, but struggled with this song. Frown

I'm really not trying to sow sour grapes here; I just really wished this show was what it presents itself to be - a true JR. show. And sadly, it's not.

(659 days ago)
Susan Huizinga:

Question for Cindy: How many hours would you set aside to rehearse for Little Mermaid, Jr.? For full productions, I usually schedule an hour per page of the script. Since the Jr. versions are smaller books plus contain the lyrics with the sheet music, I was wondering if there was a rule of thumb to apply for the Jr. versions.

(658 days ago)
Cindy Ripley:

Thanks for your comments and input Robert.  My biggest concern is that your kids did not have the experience we know they can have with musical theater.  We pilot, we write, we re-pilot, re-write, try the shows in different areas of the country etc., before they go to print.  No doubt, there will always be things to improve on, especially with this being such a new show.  I hope you get to see the changes of the new guides for some of the older legacy series, (Music Man JR, Guys and Dolls, Once On This Island.)  The important thing for you to know is that you can edit, yes with the CD to make it adaptable and performable with your kids.  They are not professionals, and MOST importantly they need to have a positive experience that makes them feel good about themselves and the artistic form they are sharing.  If incidental music is too long for your staging, fade it out.  Certain changes of course need permission, as MTI does not own the shows, they simply represent the composers.  MOST of the time, directors/teachers are granted their request, especially if it isn’t adding or deleting entire songs etc.   I would hope, with help, LMJR could have been adapted so you felt your kids had a better performance experience.  You sound like you have had great experiences and some shows under your belt.  Can’t tell you how much I wish this experience were more positive for ALL of you.  Please know we are happy to help in any form as you go through the process of JR shows.  I also think you would love taking our Teacher Intensive Workshops, (see iTheatrics.com) where we go through the process on how to do JR shows and you work with people that are just like you and put them on all around the country in all types of circumstances. Your thoughts are valuable Robert.  Thanks for taking time to contribute and strengthen the vehicle we all know and love for kids.

Susan, your formula is exactly what we use for JR and Kids rehearsal hours in our teacher workshops.  Estimate 1 rehearsal hour per page of script and go from there.

(658 days ago)
Susan Huizinga:

Hi Cindy,

I thought the formula would be a bit less since the type is larger and the music sheets are included. It numbers 106 pages. I certainly didn't schedule 106 hours of rehearsal! I actually scheduled 53 hours including tech week. Uh oh...

(658 days ago)
Christie Jeter:

We just finished our Little Mermaid, Jr run. We had 3 casts of this show - the Little Fish were K-5th - the Middle Fish were 4th-8th - and the Big Fish were 7th-12th Graders. Having done pretty much a case study of LMJr., I would say it fits best for 5th-10th as written.  My K-5th group enjoyed themselves immensely and loved the music. We had some pretty respectable 2-part singing in "Kiss The Girl" and "She's In Love", but the complex harmonies were beyond that age group. Unison was perfect in most instances and totally served the story. In retrospect, I'm so glad that my little ones had the opportunity to present LMJr. I had a 7 year old Sebastian with comic timing to beat the band, and an 8-year old "Chef Louis" who brought the house down every night. 

With the oldest group, I missed "Sweet Child" and "The World Above". But, the Broadway Jr. version, is not the Broadway version, after all. To add all the material would have ship wrecked the 70 playtime - which is perfect for this age group - in our world. 

You are right about the piano vocal score - whew - not easy. I ended up playing parts in small group vocal rehearsals and leaving the accompaniment to the CD. SImilar to Millie, Jr. in that way - tough score! Also, totally worth the investment in the challenge for the kids.

I LOVED the Little Mermaid, Jr. and so did all of my fish - big and small.

(658 days ago)
Joe Ferriero:

We just licensed this for a 6th grade production.  We did Beauty and the Beast JR. last year - the community loved it!!  I have a 3 member staff to work with my kids - director (me), choreographer and music director.  So each of us breaks each part down for the kids and is rehearsed at different times.  Seems to work wonders for the kids too.

(657 days ago)
B. Robert Thompson:

Yes Joseph, we do/did the same thing. Not only does it makes it easier, it also makes it fun for us and the kids!

I work at a performing Arts school here in the city, so we have a pretty talented bunch of kids! I only had to work on the music, as we had others to do the staging, costuming and the sets ect.

(657 days ago)
Spencer Lau:

Susan,

If your production isn't until the spring hopefully you can change your production times?  My school is presently doing The Little Mermaid Junior.  The Junior shows are wonderful for the middle school level and changing voice.  While it's not the full show, Cindy and the entire team takes such great care of the show for students to succeed.  The Junior version isn't a picnic but in my opinion, the thought and time put into the Junior rewrite gives the kids a level of difficulty that they can obtain.  I am finding that the technical things are the challenge and the acting to convey the show is the hurdle to climb.  The pieces allow for 2 and 3 part harmony at times and sets and costumes truly are what you make of it.  I know that my production team is putting these things together now and I would be happy to loan out or help in any way possible.  I'm a native NYer myself so I am in the area regularly.  If you look on here Christine Jeter has some awesome pics and stuff on here as well.  When I inherited my program the first change I made was that the ensemble would rehearse but then the leads or certain groups would have to put in a different day.  My group rehearses afterschool for 2 1/2 hours 3 days a week and my leads or certain groups have an extra rehearsal date.

I have to say that while we are all seasoned pros in some way if you have time to attend the iTheatrics Summer Intensive.  There you are able to really get a lot of time in on how to work with a group and maximize your performance time.  I have been doing this for 10 years now and I can say that after recently attending the workshop and working with Cindy and the iTheatrics staff you will gain some valuable tools.  My students this year are much farther than ever at this time and that's a lot of things I put from the Intensive to work.  While we want to push and make our kids amazing performers, I always worry "Am I pushing too hard or putting the expectation too high?".  Junior Productions can and are as challenging as anything else but as it's been said your preparation and homework are a part of this network to get the kids to where they can be.  The CD is well worth the investment.  It also has freed up so much money to do other things to help with the kids.

 

But in the end it is for the kids and that's the goal of everyone working on the shows to us presenting the shows.  No show is perfect, everyone has typos at some point but we can overcome them and have wonderful productions by knowing our kids, knowing our limits, doing our homework and adjusting on the fly as all of us have done many times

(655 days ago)
Logan Davison:

We did the production this summer.  35 Rehearsal Hours + Tech with ages 10-14.  It is one of the most challenging JR productions we've done to date but the kids absolutely loved it and we were oversold for every performance days in advance.  I like having slightly more difficult shows to choose from and appreciate the new challenges that come with larger productions!

(623 days ago)
Cindy Ripley:

Wow- 35 rehearsal hours - bravo to you! Yes there certainly is a range of difficulty in the catolog, primarily guided by the show itself. Lots of great ones in the works, fasten your seatbelt!

(623 days ago)
Joe Ferriero:

Cindy - any hints as to what is coming?? :)

(623 days ago)
Aaron Zebede:

I wish I had your problems! You guys got to DO the show.  This amazing show.  We waited 2 years for these performance rights to be available, only to apply finally and be told that we couldn't do the show in Panama.  Now that is sad.

(609 days ago)
Susan Huizinga:

I only have 15 children in the show. Any one have costumes they want to share/show me for the Little Mermaid? Anyone in Brooklyn, NY or close?

(607 days ago)
Spencer Lau:

Susan,

 

I will have pictures that I can show you after this weekend when we have our press release day.  We are located about 40 minutes south of Philly but if you like anything we have here I would be happy to help you get it or if we don't loan our's out to someone before your production then we can probably work out some kind of a rental agreement.

(606 days ago)
Susan Huizinga:

Hi Spencer, Any pictures to show?

(571 days ago)
Ceci Harader:

Alan Menken actually DID play piano! But that was only a small part of it. It's definitely easier just to use the accompaniment CD if there's no access to an orchestra (which it would be extremely rare, seeing as this play is usually used for kids in elementary to middle school). It's a very hard show, aside from that; making the effects of mermaids and going from the shore to underwater and the quick set changes without nearly enough music in between.

 

I am taking part in two seperate Little Mermaids currently (yeesh!) and the first one, opening night very soon, it's obviously going to end up very choppy...*sigh*

(200 days ago)
B. Robert Thompson:

Yeah, but some yahoo rewrote the piano parts I'm sure. Must have been Liberace!!

(200 days ago)
Ceci Harader:

Yeah, it's funny, you'd never really think a song like "Under the Sea" would be so exhausting to your fingers...

(200 days ago)
Diana Jacobacci:

We are currently at two weeks to go until show week.  We've been rehearsing since January, 6-9 hours a week for a total of 40 hours so far.   My thoughts if you're considering doing Mermaid:  either have a LOT of rehearsal time OR a group of folks willing to help with choreography.  I have the latter and it's the only reason we are ready to do full run throughs next week.  We would often have 4 rehearsals going on at once and we recorded choreo for the kids to practice at home.  I cast a larger number of kids than usual so that there wasn't a lot of overlapping.  So for example, the kids in "Les Poissons" weren't in "Kiss the Girl."  This also gives more kids the opportunity to shine since there are less kids in each number (except for "Under the Sea" which is almost everyone and is CRAZY fun!).  I am also blessed this year with kids who pick up on things QUICKLY!  Whew!

As for staging, it's tough because you need to decide how 'realistic' you want to be regarding being on the ocean surface and underwater.  We've come up with a plan that works just fine--folks know that we're not a broadway production and that we have certain limits!!  Last week we finally added in the scene change music and all worked well.  Again, I have an incredible group this year that is ON TOP of things and it makes my job a LOT easier.

As for music, we use the tracks.  With the tracks, the challenge is for the kids to know when to say certain lines as there's a lot of underscoring going on.  Even I was thrown off at first!!  I had to work with the kiddos to understand that they had to listen for certain 'cues' in the music (a flute playing for example).  Rehearsal is KEY.  My cast gets their music in early December and we start rehearsals at the beginning of January, so they are told to listen to their CDs over and over! 

We rented costumes from another poster here and they're incredible (look for University School of Nashville rental if you're interested)!  Prop wise there isn't a whole lot needed--lots less than shows I've done in the past.  It's as elaborate as you want to make it, much like any other show.

All in all, this could have been a nightmare had I not had the help I did.  There's no way I could have pulled this off on my own or even with just one or two others unless we had at least three months of rehearsal time.

Best wishes as you venture under the sea!!

Diana

 

 

 

 

 

(167 days ago)
Tracey Ashton:

Hi, to anyone that has completed the little mermaid jr musical, does anyone have one copy of the book 'Actors script' that they would be willing to sell and post (we are in Perth WA) my daughter had a copy but it was destroyed and we want to get another one without having to tell the teachers. Thanks.

(162 days ago)
Danielle Wylie:

We just completed our Little Mermaid Jr show and we needed up selling out and had 4 shows. This was for 1st-5 grade and for me it wasn't hard...maybe imagination just went right with it. I had a fantastic team and we blew through perfectly. I had more compliments stating it was the best musical by far here and the costumes were fantastIc. This has been my favorite so far...

(150 days ago)
B. Robert Thompson:

I'm happy to hear it Danielle! How long have you been a musical director?

Just wish everyone's had gone as well.

(150 days ago)
Danielle Wylie:

This is my 3rd year and have had no experience prior to just a mom who didn't want to see the musicals go away in the only elementary school in our are that does them.  The kids begged and I gave in. I am now thinking of doing beauty and the beast jr...would love to see Mary poppins jr. Someday. 

(150 days ago)
Jason Cocovinis:

Tracey - you can ask the teacher (who is the account holder) to order another Actor's Script for you for $10. 

(148 days ago)
Jennifer O\'Leary:

Spencer Lao, do you still have your Little Mermaid costumes? We're doing the show in northwest NJ at the end of July, and would love to talk to you about renting or borrowing yours.

(50 days ago)
Spencer Lau:

Hi Jennifer yes I do still have my costumes.  Where are you located?  I'm originally a Bergen County guy and we are glad to help for a minimal fee.  Let's talk!

(50 days ago)
Spencer Lau:

Jennifer here's a few pics but I have the boat, set pieces, thrones etc.

(50 days ago)
Jennifer O\'Leary:

I'm in Hackettstown, and we're doing our shows in the Roxbury/Sucasunna area. Set pieces sound great, too - we do two shows in two weeks, and the more I can gather, the more our set guys like me. I'll look through your photos with the sets in mind, and we can talk. Thanks!

oleary143@msn.com

(50 days ago)
Spencer Lau:

Sounds great Jennifer, I will email you.  I know the Roxbury/Sucasunna area really well and have friends who teach in that area so very happy and excited to help you.  I also have a lot of stuff on my facebook page as well.

Spencer

(50 days ago)