Springfield Little Theatre Returns Home to the Landers for Disney's "The Little Mermaid Jr."

Mar 15, 2019

Springfield Little Theatre returns to its home at the Landers Theatre following interior renovations, to present "Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr."
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)

Springfield Little Theatre Executive Director Beth Domann and Assistant Choreographer Emme Mauzey joined us on “Arts News” to discuss LT’s upcoming production of Disney's "The Little Mermaid Junior," March 21-April 7 at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut.

It’s the familiar tale, adapted from the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story, of the young mermaid Ariel and her many aquatic friends.  Based on the popular Disney animated film, this stage version of “Little Mermaid” is a “Junior” production: that means the cast consists of students ages 18 and under, and the show is pared down a bit in running length to make it perfect for family audiences, with a run time of about an hour and fifteen minutes. Josh Inman has both directed and choreographed the show, but Emme Mauzey has made numerous contributions.

“We do a lot of ‘cleaning,’” she says, “a lot of putting together the different pieces.  And we split up into groups a lot, so I get to work with different groups (of performers).  Just fix everything that needs to be fixed, and step in when I need to.”  She works with anything from a group of 12 up to the entire cast. The “Junior” productions tend to showcase large casts of young 18-and-under performers.  This show has a cast of 82. As Beth Domann says, “Go big or go home, man!”  There are a LOT of fish in the sea, after all….

LT’s resident choreographer Lorianne Dunn trained this show’s director Josh Inman, and Emme Mauzey is also one of Lorianne’s “kids,” says LT Executive Director Beth Domann. “Last night (Emme) finished up an entire number by herself. She does incredible work. It’s nice to have her around.”

Emme Mauzey notes that the stage version doesn’t simply duplicate the animated film. “It’s the same story that we all know from the animated version--with a bunch of added songs and dances, and bubbles and fun lights and all that stuff. So it’s just a really fun experience.” Beth Domann praises the youth cast as “amazing,” and praises the work of scenic designer Chuck Rogers and lighting designer Jamie Bower.  “It’s a good time—it’s just a good show to come and hang out and have a good time.”  Over the lengthy production period there is no double-casting, although the understudy for Ariel will have the chance to do a few performances.

And Beth Domann is quick to point out that this is LT’s first show back in the Landers after many months of renovations. “We started this summer doing the outside, then they started in December, right after the Ballet (“Nutcracker”) closed.  They (renovation firm MTS Contractors) shut down three weeks earlier than they thought they would. So they went in and, man, they got it done! They just finished tuck-pointing the inside of the stage house. So now it’s really warm… and there’s no wind blowing through it!” Draftiness has long been an issue inside the theater, as has a colony of bats that has shared the stage area with performers and staff for many years. “The bats are out for good,” Domann assures us… though both she and Mauzey say they’re “going to miss them(!). They were part of the family.  Those high notes, man, they come out.” One or more bats have even landed on one actress onstage, but we shouldn’t be seeing that sort of thing anymore at the Landers.

So Landers audiences will now get to see (and feel) the work that’s been done inside the theater. Renovations and cleanup were already obvious to anyone driving by the theater on East Walnut. “Isn’t it amazing?” asks Domann. “And our sidewalk—all that ice that happened? Beautiful, ‘cause it’s heated!” The company’s website, www.springfieldlittletheatre.org, features video taken backstage during and following renovations. “To see it with nothing in it was really trippy,” says Beth Domann.  You forget—here’s this beautiful building, and there’s no steel in it—it’s all brick.  The building’s 110 years old, so there was lots to do. We’ve fixed all the water-infiltration problems, which is huge. So now the weather can’t get in and blow in from everywhere. But there’s still more to do. Some new windows would be nice… I have mine, in my office, duct-taped,” she laughs, “so the winds can’t come in as badly. But, you know, it’s all part of the charm.”  Renovation of the upstairs offices in the Landers building is a project for another day. 

While Little Theatre couldn’t perform in the Landers, the box office and the upper floors have certainly been open for business.  Except for the very first rehearsal or two of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” the ensemble has been able to rehearse in their usual space up on the fourth floor of the Landers.

Performances at the Landers will be Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm.  Tickets range from $16-$27. For tickets, call the Little Theatre box office at 860-1334 for visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.