More than 40 actors from the Valley Performing Arts center will show the people of the Mat-Su Valley that everything is better down where it’s wetter as they perform the Disney classic, “The Little Mermaid” at the Glenn Massay Theater.
“Our dance numbers are big and amazing,” Director DJ Rotach said.
Rotach said that he’s been involved with VPA since 2009. He said the first play he worked on was “Spider's Web” by Agatha Christie. He said that he’s acted and directed countless productions with VPA ever since.
“It’s all a blur,” Rotach said.
This is Rotach’s first time directing a musical. He said there are more than 60 people in the crew, not including the live band. He said musicals are more challenging than straight plays with more moving parts to consider.
“I love all the characters and different personalities and of course all the colors. I really like the challenge of trying to present ‘Under the Sea’ live to people. It’s challenging. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” Rotach said.
This particular musical has even more moving parts than usual, according to Rotach. He said that some of the actors will utilize Flying by Foy suspension technology that will lift them into the air. He said that cast and crew members attended a three day clinic to learn how to use the equipment. He said this was the first time they’ve used this type of equipment in the Valley.
“It was a little bit of a price tag but it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s going to be worth it. I hope the audience enjoys it. I mean, it really looks like they’re swimming. It’s just great,” Rotach said.
Rotach said that casting was difficult because the actors are so talented and diverse. He said that their singing voices are “Out of this world.”
“Our Ariel, our Ursula, our Sebastian, but it doesn’t stop there. Like, any of these people could’ve been Ariel, Ursula or Sebastian. They’re all so great,” Rotach said.
During rehearsals, Sebastian’s actor Hillarie Gossett started practicing the song “Under the Sea” on the stage with the live band performing below her. Dressed in all red with red face paint and googly lobster eyes atop her head, Gossett jovially sang and danced around the stage.
“It’s awesome. It’s like the best role I’ve ever had,” Gossett said.
The fully costumed supporting cast matched Gossett’s energy, singing and dancing arm in arm. When the song was over, Rotach laughed and said, “you guys are having a lot of fun.”
“They’re like a big family already,” Rotach said.
Gossett said she’s been in theater since she was about 9 years old. She said that she grew up in the Valley and returned two-and-a-half years ago after spending 10 years in the entertainment industry down in the Lower 48.
She said that she’s spent time with celebrities like John Cusack when she played a role in “The Frozen Ground,” the 2013 crime mystery filmed Alaska.
She said that the “Little Mermaid” is her first show after returning home. She said that she’s enjoying the change of pace back in the Valley, surrounded by her friends and family instead of the competitive and “cutthroat” entertainment industry.
“It’s fun coming back to community theater,” Gossett said.
Gossett said that she got married to her “best friend” and started a family with him. She has two kids, her 5-year-old step-son Grayson and her daughter Parker who will turn a year old on opening night. She said that she takes them to rehearsals all the time. This is not a rare practice for VPA members.
“For youth to see adults play pretend is amazing,” Gossett said.
Gossett said that the “Little Mermaid” is a childhood favorite. She said that one of her favorite aspects of the story is the father and daughter relationship. She said that Ariel’s venture out of the sea to discover who she is reminded her of her own journey.
“The story’s not just about love. It’s about gaining her legs and experiencing a new world,” Gossett said.
“The Little Mermaid” runs from March 22 to April 14 at the Glenn Massay Theater. Show times are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
According to a note on VPA’s website, there will be Saturday matinees on March 30th and April 13, both at 2 p.m. The April 13 matinee will include interpreting services for the hearing impaired.
Tickets can be purchased at: www.valleyperformingarts.org.