When Jerome Lambatin was growing up, The Little Mermaid was one of his favourite childhood movies and Sebastian was his favourite character in the animated Disney musical.
“He’s so carefree,” Lambatin said last Friday during a rehearsal at Coquitlam’s Centennial secondary, where he portrays the crab in the school’s upcoming production.
Lambatin is one of 36 musical theatre students cast in the adapted Hans Christian Andersen tale, which follows a mermaid princess and her prince.
The Little Mermaid is also the first musical for Lambatin and Gianluca Martino, the Grade 10 student who plays Prince Eric opposite Vanessa Porretti’s Ariel.
Although he has no previous vocal or dancing experience, Martino said the fellow actors and crew have been encouraging as he takes the spotlight. “It’s been just so great,” he said. “It’s been like a family. We spend a lot of time together and we work as a team.”
Drama teacher and director Lisa Boddez said she wanted a family-friendly production this year to cater to middle school students in the catchment and to highlight Centennial’s theatre program.
Boddez tapped Grade 12 student Jade Hipditch to play the seagull Scuttle and to lead the students in their steps. Hipditch, who also choreographed a number in 9 to 5, is a former dance student at Coquitlam’s Lindbjerg Academy of the Performing Arts. “I didn’t do any research for the dances,” she said. “I just made it up and went with the flow. The music is incredible.”
Meanwhile, Centennial secondary grad Milena Canta returns to the school as a volunteer choreographer while music teacher Carole Baker is at the conductor’s podium for her 18th time, overseeing 29 songs and reprises with the pit orchestra.
Boddez said while there are some musical newbies on stage, there’s also veteran talent.
The Little Mermaid is Porretti’s fourth and final high school production (she also has taken on a mentorship role with the younger students, Boddez said) while Sabrina Siracusa spent five years at Lindbjerg and two years at the Langley School of Fine Arts, majoring in dance and acting.
As the sea witch Ursula, the Grade 12 student took a costume — borrowed from Lindbjerg — and bedazzled it with strings of lights; she’s also doing her own “Under the Sea” makeup.
Siracusa is proud of what the cast and crew have accomplished. “Every year, I see this program getting bigger and bigger, with more talented people," she said. "It’s really inspiring.”
For tickets to Disney’s The Little Mermaid at Centennial secondary (570 Poirier St., Coquitlam) at $17/$13, visit centtheatre.com. The musical runs Feb. 6 to 8 and Feb. 12 to 14 at 7 p.m. There is also a 1 p.m. matinee Feb. 14.