Heatherwood production plays to sold out audiences

Sound director for ‘Little Mermaid’ awarded scholarship for his efforts backstage
By Dan Aznoff | Apr 20, 2018
Courtesy of: Northwest Theatre Press Sarah Bennett captured the hearts of audiences during the Heatherwood Middle School production of Little Mermaid with her portrayal of Sebastian the Crab with her Jamaican accent and her rendition of “Under da Sea.” One semi-objective/non-parent said. ““She was super tiny, but packed a punch.” Bennett is pictured during a performance with Christian Ivanyuk in his portrayal of King Titon, the ruler of the underwater Kingdom of Atlantis.

The long lines of people waiting to get into the auditorium, and the number of cars circling the lot in search of a place to park forced a 30-minute delay in the start of the final night of the Heatherwood Middle School production of “Little Mermaid.”

When the curtain finally went up on the fifth and final show of the junior version of the award-winning musical on March 30, the audience reacted with the same enthusiasm as a production of “Hamilton” on Broadway.

“Everything was top notch,” said one semi-objective, non-parent. “These are sixth, seventh and eighth graders who are crazy talented.”

More than 50 Heatherwood students were cast in the show, and another 50 worked backstage during the annual middle school production, making it the most inclusive program at the middle school with the possible exception of track, according to parent/director Joy Lobb.

“This was a match made in heaven,” said Lobb, who has a degree in drama from the University of Washington. “My daughter came to me and told me that I needed to do this.”

The director’s daughter, eighth grader Gabriella Lobb, was cast as an eel in the underwater fantasy.

Lobb admitted the production was more work than she ever imagined. Her duties ranged from casting and coordinating rehearsals to fundraising.

“There is no drama department at Heatherwood, so we relied on the band and choir director to help us find rehearsal space and rent out the performance hall at Jackson (high school),” Lobb said. “We had zero money. We had to beg, borrow and steal our costumes. We really did not steal anything, but relied on a lot of borrowing.”

Parents were asked to contribute $50 for each child in the show.

The production would not have come together, Lobb said, without full support from Monica Camp, who serves as the choir and orchestra director at the middle school as well as faculty advisor for the after-school musical productions.

Other parents who donated time to the production included musical director Chari Bennett, Shoshauna Mohlman as producer and assistant director, and technical director Jo Anne Buiteweg.

Another contributor who stood out was Jackson High student Evan Johnson, who returned to his old school to run the soundboard for the “Little Mermaid.” Teachers and volunteers joined together to provide a $500 scholarship to the high school senior to thank him for his dedication to the theater.

Johnson has run the sound system for Heatherwood productions for the past two years. He retired to his backstage roll after performing in the middle school’s production of “Oklahoma” five years ago. He hopes to use the scholarship in his pursuit of a degree in audio engineering.

The semi-objective review of the production from another non-parent included praise for Sarah Bennett in her role as Sebastian the crab, saying, “She was super tiny, but packed a punch.”

Madeline Carlson was acclaimed in the title role as Ariel, Ben Bourdeaux received applause as Prince Eric and Isabel Wilder drew boos as the evil witch Ursla.

“The actor who played the French chef (Caleb Saunders) had everybody laughing so hard I hope there is a video,” an audience member said.

“Little Mermaid” was the fifth consecutive production staged by the all-volunteer cast and crew. Heatherwood has also staged junior versions of “Seussical (the Musical),” “Shreck,” “Music Man” and “Oklahoma.”

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