After the last bell of the day rings, the performing arts hall is empty, with exception of a few backpacks, spilled water and a disregarded textbook laying under the risers pressed up against the cool concrete wall. The band room is dark, the only light illuminating the interior walls coming from the windows stained after years of wear and tear and the two lights on in the practice rooms. The choir room, although unlocked, is empty besides choir director Mike Pierson. The only noises heard in the entire vicinity are Pierson’s fork hitting his salad, an oboe preparing for district auditions and Prince Eric, also known as junior Wolf Schaefer, who belts his solos to an empty practice room.
Across the hall, in the Performing Arts Center (PAC), the surroundings are anything but quiet. On one side of the stage, cast members get into hair and makeup with the help of several parent and student volunteers. Junior Claire Smith hands a chorus boy a chamber of blush, directing him to brighten his cheeks.
“If you look like a clown in person, you’ll look good on stage,” Smith said.
As the last moments of initial costume preparation arrive, a group of people enter the stage, singing “Under the Sea” and setting a lighthearted mood for the three or more hour rehearsal in front of them. When the lights dim and the props are set, the performers turn serious, ready to put in the work in order to perform well at their opening show the following day.
Behind the heavy navy curtains, however, was a show never meant to be displayed in front of an audience. There, hidden from the crowd, the people behind the characters truly shine. The mermaids, instead of swimming, gather around a couch in the dimly lit green room where a speaker projects the sounds on stage. Flounder, also known as freshman Wyatt Logan, sits in the middle of two people in an empty room huddled around a phone. Logan wears bright yellow overalls with a blue undershirt, and his eyebrows and lips painted to match.
“I feel like a giraffe in my costume,” Logan said. “It makes me feel taller than I actually am.”
In the same room, sophomore Michael Bledsoe rolls around in a chair, finding entertainment as he waits for his next scene. The room smells intensely of hot glue, though he doesn’t seem to mind. His eyes are lined black and he sports a puffy white long sleeve sailor shirt, along with brown khakis and tall white socks. Although he announces, frustrated, that he forgot his vest, he still enjoys his costume.
“I like the variety and detail,” Bledsoe said. “It’s put together so it wouldn’t clash, but also wouldn’t blend. It’s a balance.”
As Bledsoe relaxes in wait, Ariel, played by junior Madi Castilow, takes the stage. She swims behind styrofoam waves and sings with great power into the crowd. When her scene ends, she lays beneath the waves, hidden from what will be an auditorium full of audience members. A heavy wooden boat rolls onto stage with the help of several stage hands hidden in all black clothing. The stage hands stay behind the scenes, though their part in the musical is crucial. They are led only by a sheet of paper hidden behind a wall lit by a single lamp and an earpiece leading up to the box, where a watchful Justin Cole, technical director, prevents the musical from any imperfections. Senior Seth Sneery knows the technical side of the musical all too well.
“I’ve been a part of every [aspect] of this musical,” Sneery said. “From tech, costuming, stage lighting, to performing.”
As sneery is on stage, junior Ally Hyman sits among a group of people on a heavily used couch in the green room. A table in the same room harbors warm cheese and crackers, and snacks for the performers. Under the table, a cooler with melting ice keeps water bottles in order to save cast member’s voices from cracking. Hyman’s voice drifts beyond the table, however, and the only thing keeping her voice from reaching the stage are the heavy wooden doors that enclose the room.
“We just yell weird things at each other,” Hyman said.
For a group that spends countless hours rehearsing and working together, the musical still seems to be highly underappreciated by the rest of the student body. As upwards of 20 people work towards the production, other students disregard the musical and the talent that accommodated in the PAC. A Little Mermaid play flyer lays by a trash can in the main commons, insignificant to the hustle of the rest of RBHS. What really matters to the hard working, accomplished performer, however, is simply being on stage. Even during rehearsal, the energy is ecstatic. Although there’s only ten people in the crowd, most of them working for the musical, the cast performs as if they were truly on Broadway. Castilow sings with passion, her eyes turning to the crowd as she sings her heart out and invests herself in the character she worked for during auditions. Even in the heat of being on stage, however, Castilow is still a bit cold in her costume which consists of a green skirt and a purple “shell” bra.
“I don’t have to worry about getting hot,” Castilow laughs. “[The costume] is a bit intimidating.”
Regardless of whichever one of the five costumes Castilow wears, she still brings her performance energy every time she steps on stage. She runs her hands on the props made by the theater tech class as if she were truly in awe.
“[Ariel] has a lot of self struggle,” Castilow said. “Especially with her family, and she’s a very curious girl.”
As Ariel learns how to walk in once scene, on the other side of the wall Ursula, played by senior Andrea Baker, readies herself in the mirror. Her hair is tied up in a loose bun, intertwined with black wire and spray painted with silver strips. Her makeup is dark; detailing her face in a sinister way and highlighting her striking bone structure. As a veteran to the musicals, Baker is used to the late nights and heavy makeup. She’s a pro on stage, alerting the crowd of her presence as soon as she steps into the spotlight. Baker is the villain the crowd loves to hate. She wears a black corset with ten pound tentacles around her waist, as well as two hoop skirts and a slip. Baker, however, would never let an uncomfortable costume keep her from performing as if she is truly on a Broadway stage.
“Last [rehearsal] I tried to do a spin and my tentacles fell off,” Baker said. “Of course I couldn’t wrile them because they were attached to my fingers.”
As the rehearsal comes to an end, the clock is nearing 10 p.m. The cast members are beyond exhausted, yet the stay even later in order to take notes on how to improve their performance during the premiere based on that night’s rehearsal. The musical pit, however, is released when the run through is over. They flee into the hallway, laughing and running with the same energy they had hours prior. The trumpet player, senior Evan Borst, shoots mocha cream into his mouth as the flute player, junior Skyler Villescas runs down the hallway away from sophomore bass player Ben Lidsky. Fifteen minutes later, the cast is released. No longer in costume but still in makeup, the performers flood into the hallway and then out the South Entrance doors into the cool night air until they return the next day to perform once again.