NRHS plans Disney classic
Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2013
More students are involved in an upcoming Nansemond River High theatrical production than any other individual extra- or co-curricular activity in Suffolk’s public schools, including athletics, says “The Little Mermaid” director Joleen Neighbours.
After starting with two free shows for public elementary school students on April 18 and 19, more than 100 members of the high school’s performing arts company will stage the recent Broadway hit for the general public next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We had 140 (students) come out and want to be a part of the show in some capacity,” Neighbours said. “I try to take as many as I can.”
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While other non-curricular activities like football and track have comparatively healthy budgets, Neighbours noted, Nansemond River High’s drama program is completely unfunded, relying on volunteers and fundraising.
Despite this challenge, it has earned local, state and national recognition as one of the top-performing arts programs in the state, “without any assistance from the school system,” Neighbours said.
That success may have something to do with the enthusiasm of students. Some came to school every day during their spring break to work on the colorful array of costumes and sets, Neighbours said.
Almost 90 students are in the cast, and the remainder have been involved in other aspects of the show, including designing and constructing an elaborate set that includes large wooden screens on wheels, painted to create a three-dimensional under-the-sea effect.
“The program has boomed so much,” Neighbours said. “It’s kind of unreal.”
The drama teacher said she gives students in her productions the opportunity to learn how theater is crafted.
“I try to teach the kids how to do this so they can do it when they leave,” she said.
Off-stage participants in the show not only get the chance to work on set design, including tasks like mounting screens on casters, but to work with Suffolk Audio, Nansemond River High’s partner in education, on special-effects lighting and audio.
“We have had a couple of kids working directly under Suffolk Audio,” Neighbours said. “I’m always impressed with what these high school students can do when you allow them to do it. I tell the students, ‘First and foremost, it’s team work.’ If you don’t learn how to function as a team, you won’t explore and grow in your job.”
Based on the Disney classic, “The Little Mermaid” is described as a timeless tale of love in which the mermaid princess, Ariel, forges a path through adversity with Prince Eric.
Audience members will enjoy a number of well-known Disney songs during the live musical, and Disney princesses will make a special appearance.
Each of the show’s public performances starts at 7 p.m. in Nansemond River High’s auditorium. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students and Suffolk Public Schools employees, while special seats near the Disney princesses are available for $15.