Harrison High students focus on ocean ecology in ‘Little Mermaid’

Harrison High School’s spring musical isn’t just a performance of the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.”

As students bring the beloved Hans Christiansen Andersen fairy tale to life March 16-19, they have also learned valuable information about ocean ecology through a partnership with the Ocean Conservancy. Their goal: to draw attention to the devastating impact of plastic shopping bags and water bottles, which choke coastal areas and waterways.

Assistant director Sue Cobb said the theater program received a $1,500 grant from the Farmington/Farmington Hills Education Foundation to make the connection. The sale of reusable shopping bags will raise funds split between the Ocean Conservancy and the theater program.

“Through this grant, we directors are adding another layer in the musical process with the students’ participation in ocean ecology through the Ocean Conservancy and its message that impacts us all … including the characters the cast will be portraying ‘Under the Sea’,” she said.

While some students hadn’t seen the movie, 17-year-old junior Chania Malcum said it was a childhood favorite, and she loves “channeling” the character of Ursula. The evil sea witch makes a pact with the mermaid Ariel (played by Bridget Smith) who dreams of living in the world above the sea and is willing to sacrifice her most prized possession – the beautiful singing voice she inherited from her late mother – so she can be with the sea-loving Prince Eric (played by Zack Heger) whose life she saves during a storm.

“I always loved Ursula,” said Malcum, who has been acting since elementary school. “She was powerful. She was so big, so out there, it was amazing to me.”

Like Malcum, castmate Julia Luterman, also a 17-year-old junior, works on stage and behind the scenes. She’s playing Arista, one of Ariel’s older sisters, but her work as a makeup artist starts three or four hours before the curtain goes up.

“We’re creating scales, gluing eyebrows … for the fish, we’re giving them a whole new skin,” she said.

Luterman also did makeup for last fall’s “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse,” and has performed in “The Addams Family” and “Xanadu,” among other Harrison productions.

“It’s something new and fun every year,” she said, “which is part of the rush.”

Malcum said students involved in this production have worked together since their freshman year.

“Everyone’s so kind to each other and supportive,” she said. “It’s one big family.”

The directing team of Dean Cobb, Sue Cobb, Lucy Koviak and Kathy Seremet is joined by Rachael Rose, co-vocals, and Travis Cook, orchestra. In all, 100 students are participating as cast, crew and pit members – about one-tenth of the school’s population, Sue Cobb said.

If you go…

You can see this family-friendly production of “The Little Mermaid” March 16 and 17 at 7 p.m., March 18 at 6 p.m. and March 19 at 2 p.m. Kids can have their photos taken with the characters after each performance, and those 12 and under will be eligible for a drawing held at intermission. Costumed kids get a second chance at the drawing.

Student and senior adult tickets are $12, and adult tickets are $15. Tickets are available each day school is in session during lunches (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) through March 17 or by calling the box office, 248-888-6274. All tickets are reserved. Those over 60 can get a free ticket with a Senior Adult Card from School and Community Relations. For information, call 248-489-3349.

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