Drama Program Presents Spectacular Production of “The Little Mermaid”


Mia Villavicencio, Staff Writer

For this year’s spring musical, Tenafly High School put on a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. The cast starred Gillie Halfone (’23) as Ariel, Ziv Zaifman (’22) as Prince Eric, Luca Ahn-Cooper (’22) as Sebastian, and Valentina Orozco (’23) as Ursula. It was a high-quality, entertaining show for audiences of all ages. 

In contrast to the last semester’s more mature production of Spring Awakening, The Little Mermaid was a lighthearted orchestral performance that appealed to everyone. Mr. Ahn-Cooper, the director of the show, noted that “Spring Awakening was a very intense, meaningful, and deep piece of work, so we wanted something more family-friendly that little kids could come to from all the schools.” 

From the iconic “Under the Sea” to the more intimate “Part of Your World,” this almost three-hour show had viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. The Little Mermaid is a prime example of Disney’s magnetic allure. The set, the costumes, the special effects, and the raw talent of the cast, crew, and orchestra came together to truly capture the essence of a Disney adventure. “It’s Disney. It’s magical. It’s huge. It’s epic,” Ahn-Cooper emphasized. 

Each actor had a different perspective on the story, along with different musical preferences. Gillie Halfone’s (Ariel’s) favorite song was “Beyond My Wildest Dreams.” “I loved portraying the excitement [Ariel] was feeling and singing with the joy that she would feel as she was entering a new world,” Halfone said. Valentina Orozco, who played Ursula, experienced a similar sense of excitement while on stage. She pointed out that Ursula’s most famed number, “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” was her favorite song to perform. “There were so many dynamics and it’s such a powerful song that I loved to sing,” she said. It was certainly an enchanting experience for the audience as well.

But getting the show to be as stunning as audience members experienced it was no easy feat. Perfecting the music and coordinating the scenes was mentally and physically draining for everyone involved. “The hardest part was the rehearsal process,” Mr. Ahn-Cooper said. “Getting people to buy in and to show up to rehearsals proved to be challenging at times. I knew they would pull through and get it together in the end, but there were moments in which everyone was tired, overworked, and stressed.” In addition to polishing the songs and capturing the essence of Disney, tech issues and wardrobe malfunctions created some additional hurdles. Gillie Halfone (Ariel) pointed out that “the hardest part to pull off was the quick changes.” With eight quick changes on and off stage, “There was barely any time to pull them off and we messed up many times during rehearsal. There was even a time where I went on stage with my dress wide open in the back during ‘Kiss the Girl,’” Halfone said. However, in the end, the countless hours of preparation paid off to create a marvelous masterpiece. 

Being a part of such an intense, large-scale project was rewarding and enjoyable for performers. Orozco (Ursula) emphasizes that the theater program is “an amazing outlet to express yourself” and “truly creates a family.” She mentioned that while taking on the role of Ursula challenged her, it truly helped her to grow as a singer and actress. 

Mr. Ahn-Cooper encourages anyone who has ever wanted to be involved with theater to put themselves out there and audition. “The people that audition to be in the musicals and the plays are some of the bravest kids in the school. Putting yourself out there is really challenging, but don’t be afraid to go for it,” he said.