On Broadway, the characters used roller blades and wheeled shoes to suggest the sea creatures in "The Little Mermaid" were moving through water.
Every stage version of the popular Hans Christian Andersen tale, which gained a popular modern audience through Disney's animated classic and several live action films, uses some means to convey underwater scenes.
If you goWhat: "The Little Mermaid"
Who: Naperville's Magical Starlight Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 and 19; 1:30 p.m. Jan. 13, 14, 20 and 21; and 5:30 p.m. Jan. 13, 14, 20 and 21
Where: Naperville Central High School Auditorium, 440 W. Aurora Ave.
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Info: (630) 848-5000 and magicalstarlight.org
For the Magical Starlight Theatre's new production of the beloved story of mermaid Ariel's quest to find love and her place in the world, opening this Friday for a 10-performance run in Naperville, dance will be the artistic mechanism that brings that feeling home to the audience.
"We are going to go with a graceful movement," Director Kris Visher said. "We are trying to do living seas. It is such a technical show because of the spaces you go through and all the action."
Dancers playing the parts of a living sea wall and coral reef will suggest, through body language, undulating water and the propulsion of characters swimming through the ocean.
With a 73-member cast, Visher said the two-act musical is full of dance production numbers and elaborate costumes that are bound to capture the attention of even the youngest theatergoer.
"There's a big breakout dance number. There are seagulls that tap. It is a big show. It is fine for any age. It's all eye candy," she said. "We're going to give them a lot of what they expect, but it will have a couple of songs that aren't in the Disney movie."
While the spectacle will be a sensory delight, she said, the cast and crew aim to draw the audience into the story's themes as well.
"The plot is a little bit different in the stage version than in the movie," she said. "There are so many different aspects in this story that often go unnoticed about people being trapped in a world they don't belong in."
Visher said auditions for the production, presented by the theater troupe that's a program of Naperville Park District, drew more than twice as many actors as roles available.
"Everybody auditions. They have to earn their position or casting," she said. "The characters are cast to the appropriate ages."
Isabella Newhuis, a senior at Lisle's Benet Academy, plays Ariel.
"'The Little Mermaid' has always been one of my favorite musicals," Newhuis said. "I know all these little kids are going to come and be excited. Most will have seen the Disney movie. You have to make it what they expect, but you have to make it even better. Our job is to always have them reeled in."
Newhuis said she has appeared in two previous productions of the show, playing a tap-dancing seagull and a lady beta fish In a Little Mountain Community Theatre show in Lemont. Newhuis said that show was directed by Heather Hutchison, who is playing the villain Ursula in this current production.
Newhuis also was in a Naperville summer camp version of the show directed by Visher.
"I was Flounder in that one," she said, referring to a tropical fish friend of Ariel's.
An accomplished figure skater with Creative Ice Theatre, Newhuis played the part of Wendy in Magical Starlight's 2015 presentation of "Peter Pan."
There are some parallels between the two shows.
"Ariel wants what she doesn't have. I think that most of us want what we can't have," she said. "There's so much strain on her and pressure. Everyone can really see themselves through one of these characters. Everyone can look at the show and get a different message out of it."