Photo by Blake Taft

Since December 2023, the talented students at Cape Hatteras Secondary School (CHSS) have been working hard to launch one of their most ambitious theater productions yet.

The upcoming production of “The Little Mermaid,” which is hitting the stage April 19-21, has a crew of approximately 100 students and volunteers working behind the scenes, perfecting every detail from elaborate costumes to magical elements designed to surprise the audience.

“We all agree that this will be one of the most impressive projects we have ever done,” said CHSS Drama Club Co-Director Blake Taft. “I don’t think anyone on the island has seen anything like this.”

Taft helped launch the revitalized Drama Club and Theater Program in 2022, staging the school’s first new musical in years – “Elf The Musical Jr.” – in December 2022.

“We basically turned the concession stand into a costume shop.” Photo by Blake Taft

Now in its third year, the CHSS Theater Program has grown by leaps and bounds, and is building a reputation for its incredible twice-a-year productions, which rival any college or community theater group in the country.

This latest production of “The Little Mermaid” is no exception.

“We have 150 costumes throughout the show, which are being made by hand,” said Taft, noting that longtime volunteer Michelle Reider O’Brien is leading the costume charge with volunteer and student assistants. “We basically turned the concession stand into a costume shop.”

In addition, the carpentry classes headed by Coach Keith Durham have spent weeks crafting intricate sets and props – which include a replica of Prince Eric’s wooden boat.

“There are so many set pieces that I can’t even count them all,” said Taft. “There are also new lighting effects, and new magic effects… I’m not going to give the magic effects away because people need to see them for themselves.”

The cast is also bigger than ever, with 27 middle and high school cast members, as well as 12 elementary school students who are joining the team as Junior Sea Creatures. “It’s a great opportunity to engage the elementary school, because they’ll be at [CHSS] one day soon, and we want them to be involved in the Theater Program for a long time to come,” said Taft.

“And all the kids have really been pouring their hearts and souls into this show,” he added. “It makes it easy for me as a director… when you see the show, you’re going to forget that these are kids.”

When all of these moving parts are combined, the end result is a production that will appeal to the entire community, and not just the parents who are connected to the cast and crew.

Photo by Blake Taft

“I’ve seen a lot of productions at all levels, and this is something really special,” said Taft. “It’s up there with the best of the best.”

The tale of “The Little Mermaid” is a familiar one, but Taft said there are a few new surprises in the storyline as well. All of the famous musical numbers from the original Disney movie are included, but there are also some new songs, and a couple of unexpected twists and turns along the way.

“This is a show you might think you know, and we all know the ending – it’s a happy ending – but how we get there is really surprising,” he said.

Taft hopes that after months of hard work, and new elements that are bigger and better than anything the CHSS Theater Program has staged before, the Hatteras Island community will come out to the theater to see the show, and be wowed in the process.

“It’s part of our long-term goal to bring arts and culture to our community, and I really think people will be thrilled by what we’ve done with ‘The Little Mermaid,’” said Taft. “We can’t wait for the community to see it, because it’s going to electrify everyone.”

How to catch the show

  • Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children, and are currently for sale at the front office of CHSS, the United Bank in Buxton, and at The Froggy Dog Restaurant in Avon. Proceeds go to support the CHSS Drama Club.
  • “The Little Mermaid” will be performed on Friday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, April 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the CHSS Auditorium.

The post CHSS Theater Program’s biggest production yet, “The Little Mermaid,” debuts this weekend appeared first on Island Free Press.

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