In the park and under the sea


Prescott Park Arts Festival stages “The Little Mermaid” this summer

If you’ve wondered what life is like under the sea, the Prescott Park Arts Festival will be your go-to destination this summer. The arts festival announced on Feb. 3 that its summer musical will be “The Little Mermaid,” based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale and the 1989 animated Disney musical. The production will run June 24 through Aug. 21.

“I have a wish list of musicals I’d love to present here at the park that I think are well-suited to the space, and ‘The Little Mermaid’ was at the top,” says Ben Anderson, PPAF president. “It has a lot of magical components; it’s very well-loved, and I really can see the audience, especially kids, getting mesmerized by the show. That it’s also right next to the water adds a magical component to the show as well.”

“The Little Mermaid” makes its regional debut at Prescott Park this summer. Anderson says he locked in the rights to the production three months earlier than he usually books a musical. The show features music by Academy Award-winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and a book by Doug Wright. It includes the songs “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl,” and “Part of Your World.”

Beyond the catchy songs and the excitement of hosting a regional debut, Anderson says “The Little Mermaid” also marks a number of firsts for the festival. The production features a cast of more than 40 actors, more than 20 of whom will be children. It’s one of the festival’s largest casts to date.

It’s also the first time the festival will create its own costumes from scratch — and once the show wraps, Anderson says, the festival will rent the costumes out to other theater productions across the country.

“The costumes are a very spectacular part of the show. There’s lots of opportunities for brilliant colors and bright costumes,” he says. On the costume team is Victoria Carot, a Chicago-based costume designer who got her start as a summer intern at the festival in 2010. “We’ve had the opportunity to bring her back to help put this show together. It’s something brand new for us.”

Also returning for the production is Carol Jo Fisher, a senior lecturer and puppetry arts specialist at the University of New Hampshire who constructed the dragon that was used in the festival’s production of “Shrek.” Anderson says the festival rents out the dragon to other theaters and that it’s currently in Texas and will stop in Oklahoma and Maryland before returning home.

Fisher will make more than 50 puppets for “The Little Mermaid. “Her work is extraordinary, and the opportunity to feature her work in such a large quantity is beyond exciting,” Anderson says.

“The Little Mermaid” also marks the return of director David Kaye – this will be his fifth show for the festival. Kaye, a theater professor at UNH, previously directed “The Sound of Music,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Peter Pan,” and “Grease” in Prescott Park.

“‘The Little Mermaid’ is going to have a number of challenges. It is a huge production with a great number of scenic, costume, and casting demands. But the PPAF staff has put together an amazing artistic team and I am really excited to see what we create,” Kaye says. “This will be my first time back to direct at the park in four years. It is such a magical place to make theater, and I can’t wait to get started.”

For Anderson, “The Little Mermaid” is an opportunity to use the park’s stage and its surrounding environment to full effect.

“It’s kind of unique doing theatrical presentations here in the park — the audience is so large, and so is the stage, so everything has to be a really big spectacle to resonate with the audience,” he says. “We really like that building these costumes will afford us the opportunity to make them big and dazzling.”