Little Mermaid

Cast members of Hershey Area Playhouse’s upcoming production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” show their sillier sides in this promotional photo taken at the Derry Township community theater.

Has it really been three decades since Disney’s delightful undersea fairy tale, “The Little Mermaid,” made its cinematic debut?

Yes, and the creative types at Hershey Area Playhouse, who will launch a stage production of “The Little Mermaid” on July 18, believe Disney’s tuneful tale of Ariel the mermaid and her aquatic friends, taken from an old Hans Christian Andersen story, will continue to attract audiences young and old.

“With the 30th anniversary of the movie this year, we thought this was a perfect time to bring this show to the playhouse stage,” said Valerie Schrader, co-director of the HAP production with Jilly Harris. “We love how the musical script features everyone’s favorite songs from the movie, but also adds additional songs and provides more dimensions to each character.”

The show’s long-running appeal, which has spawned follow-up films, video games, albums, television shows and a hit musical on Broadway, is thanks in no small part to an intoxicating, Academy Award-winning score by Alan Mencken and the late Howard Ashman that includes such pearls as “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

New songs from Mencken and lyricist Glenn Slater were added to the theatrical show.

HAP’s sprawling production, which features more than three dozen cast members, many in multiple roles, is tough to contain on the community theater’s stage inside a converted barn in Derry Township.

“It’s admittedly been a challenging process to bring this particular show to life in this space,” Harris said, “but we’ve gathered an incredible array of talent to do just that.”

The cast includes Emilie Leyes as Ariel, Shawn Matthews as Prince Eric, Brianne Yeagley as the villainous Ursula, Amy Jo Brixius as Sebastian and John Mallonee as King Triton. The show runs through July 28.

Allenberry stages classic

Disney magic also will soon make an appearance at Allenberry Playhouse, where practically perfect nanny ”Mary Poppins” is about to pop in and straighten things out for a troubled British family.

This musical comedy, based on a series of books by Australian-English writer P.L. Travers (1899-1996), made an indelible impression in 1964 in a film that starred Julie Andrews as Mary and Dick Van Dyke as an irrepressible chimney sweep named Bert. Once again Disney provided an unforgettable score from brothers Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, featuring classics such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

Allenberry’s production, which runs from July 19 through Aug. 4, is based on the theatrical adaptation of the film, which premiered on Broadway in 2006. In addition to the original Sherman score, this family-friendly show features new songs and additional music and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles.

Two-person play

The musical gets turned on its head starting Friday at Totem Pole Playhouse, where a production of “Souvenir” will tell the true story of wealthy eccentric Florence Foster Jenkins, a horrifyingly bad singer who was famously incapable of realizing her own deficiencies.

Operating under the delusion that she was a gifted operatic soprano, Jenkins annually gave a recital in the ballroom of New York City’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, where she resided. News of her singing spread, and soon her concerts were packed with “fans” who roared with derisive laughter that Jenkins mistook for cheers.

Jenkins wasn’t entirely unaware of the criticisms, apparently. “People may say I can’t sing,” she once remarked to a friend, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

Her story culminates with a 1944 performance at famed Carnegie Hall, which sold out in a mere two hours. The audience included celebrities such as Cole Porter and Lily Pons. A month after the disastrous performance, the Wilkes-Barre native died of a heart attack.

If the story sounds a bit familiar, you may be recalling a recent biopic about Jenkins that featured Meryl Streep in the title role.

Steve Temperley’s two-person play, alternately funny and poignant, is seen mainly through the eyes of Cosme McCoon, a pianist who served as Jenkins’ accompanist for a dozen years and learned to overlook her off-key quirks.

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