Shannon Netemeyer wanted to be a Disney princess since she was a little girl.
She finally earns her crown — and her fins — as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” opening today for four performances at The Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.
“Now that I get to play one, I’m most worried about living up to expectations. It’s a big responsibility. Everybody loves Ariel.”
What is the coolest thing about being a mermaid?
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“I have a tail,” said Shannon, 18, a recent graduate of Mater Dei High School in Breese. “It was difficult at first. I kept knocking things over. But I’m getting used to it.
“Also, I really love the music, especially ‘She’s in Love.’ I don’t even sing that one. They sing it about me.”
“The Little Mermaid Jr.,” Looking Glass Playhouse’s summer youth show, is based on the 1989 animated Disney film. In a magical underwater kingdom, the beautiful young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her ocean home — and her fins — behind and live in the human world above. To do it, she has to defy her father, King Triton (Steven Kramer), make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula (Haley Stelling), and win the heart of handsome Prince Eric (Bennet English) by convincing him she is the girl with the enchanting voice he has been seeking.
Shannon is the daughter of Looking Glass Playhouse veterans Glenn and Robbin Netemeyer, of Lenzburg. Shannon also played rebellious teen Wednesday in the theater’s production of “The Addams Family,” and has appeared in “Mary Poppins,” and several times in “A Christmas Carol.”
“I’ve been at the Looking Glass my whole life,” said Shannon, who will attend Millikin University in Decatur in the fall, and plans to major in commercial music. “I’m hoping to find a community theater or campus plays to get involved in there, too.”
The “Little Mermaid” cast also includes Sydney Stogner as Chef Louis, Emma Clark as Flounder, Makayla Eason as Scottie, Liam Brenzel as Grimsby, Emma Martin as Carlotta and 59 talented young people, from 8 to 18, as supporting singers and dancers.
“They have been rehearsing since May 11,” said director Jason Johnson, “three days a week at first, then four days a week in June.”
Since most of the play takes place underwater, with some scenes on land, the young performers are also responsible for scenery changes. The sea chorus, for example, helps transform the stage into the sea, along with lighting changes and a set that relies on a screen projection system.
“We wanted it to have a the look of the Hans Christian Andersen book,” Jason said. “And Marsha Holland has painted beautiful watercolors that are projected.”
The elaborate costumes, designed by Jason and Peg Zuger, help bring the Disney cartoon characters to life.
“Ursula is larger than life, so she needed a larger-than-life costume,” Jason said. In her flowing purple dress, complete with tentacles, Ursula stands 4 feet taller than Ariel.
Jason promises a lot of surprises, including fun audience participation. He described one surprise that will make all the kids in the audience part of the play, but he doesn’t want to burst that bubble yet. “They’ll love it,” he said.
Every song from the Disney movie is in this play, including “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Fathoms Below,” plus some new ones from the Broadway stage production.
Is there a showstopper?
“Oh yes. One song involves our seagull chorus” — 18 kids dressed as seagulls singing “Human Stuff,” Jason said. “It’s a hoot.”
The director is especially pleased with his casting of Ariel.
“Shannon is wonderful, and so pleasant to work with,” he said. “My wife Kim and I have known Shannon at the Looking Glass since she was 3 or 4 years old. This season, we acted together in ‘The Addams Family.’ She was Wednesday, and I was Uncle Fester. It’s been a real pleasure to watch her grow up. Shannon brings the cartoon Ariel to life.”
Jason was 14 years old when he first saw “The Little Mermaid” at the movies.
“Now it’s a treat that my 8-year-old daughter, Sophia, gets to see the Disney magic come to life with new eyes.”
Sophie plays a seahorse, who announces King Triton.
When the curtain comes down, Jason hopes the audience comes away with the heart and soul of the play’s message: “Dream Big.”
At a glance
What: “The Little Mermaid Jr.”
When: 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon
Tickets: All tickets are $6; go to www.lookingglassplayhouse.com or call 618-537-4962.