Young Valley Youth Theatre actors star in ‘The Little Mermaid’

Go under the sea with “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” presented by Valley Youth Theatre.

Ariel and all her sea creature friends are swimming onto Center Stage at the Herberger Theater Center on June 10.

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” is a hauntingly beautiful love story about a magical kingdom beneath the sea, where the young mermaid, Ariel, longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above. Based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved stories and Disney’s classic animated film, this production includes music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, according to a press release.

This musical fable will capture your heart with its irresistible songs including “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World”.

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” features a brilliantly talented cast of young actors from all over the Valley including: Phoenix, Cave Creek, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Peoria, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Surprise, Laveen and New River.

“We auditioned approximately 170 young people for this production,” stated Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director, in the release. “There was more talent under one roof that week than is imaginable. We had some very tough decisions to make and this cast is going to blow your socks off.”

Nathan Sheppard returns to the Herberger stage as the handsome Prince Eric. Mr. Sheppard was last seen at VYT as Joseph in this season’s opening production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” where he received rave reviews, according to the release.

Mr. Sheppard lives in north Phoenix. He is a recent graduate of Sandra Day O’Connor High School and has been accepted to the Lyric Opera Program to study Musical Theatre at Arizona State University.

“Honestly, this is a dream come true for me,” stated Mr. Sheppard in the release. “This is a movie that I grew up watching so it has a very special place in my heart. To portray a Disney prince, like Eric, who has so much heart and pure love for Ariel, is going to be an absolute blast.”

The beautiful mermaid, Ariel, will be played by Kayla Dobbs. Ms. Dobbs lives in Scottsdale and will be a sophomore at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek in the fall.

She returns to VYT after recently winning a National Youth Award for Best Lead Actress in “The Wizard of OZ.”

“All Kayla wanted was a call-back for any role so she could perform on the Herberger stage,” stated Jennifer Dobbs, Kayla’s mother, in the release.  “It was two in the morning when we discovered that she had been cast as Arial.  She was in disbelief…she started crying and jumping on her bed and laughing all at the same time…she was ecstatic.”

Ira Hill, from Tempe, will appear as the ever-dutiful, cranky crab Sebastian. Mr. Hill is a trained jazz vocalist who at 14-years-old sang with Grammy-nominated Dennis Rowland and the Count Basie Big Band. This is Mr. Hill’s third show with VYT and he recently released his first album titled “Tomorrow”.

Making her VYT debut, playing the infamous Sea Witch, Ursula, is Tatumn Zale. Ms. Zale lives in Phoenix and is a recent graduate of Xavier College Preparatory where she performed in several productions.

“She is a true triple threat with an amazingly rich voice and we are excited to welcome her to VYT,” stated Mr. Cooper in the release.

Another new-comer to VYT is 10-year-old Kylan Chait, from Tempe, playing Ariel’s adorable and ever-fearful friend Flounder.

Clay Rollon returns to VYT to play King Triton. Mr. Rollon is a recent graduate of Desert Vista High School and will be attending the University of Arizona in the fall, where he plans to study marketing. He was last seen on the Herberger stage sashaying his fruit-basket hat and driving the girls crazy as Naphtali in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Ariel’s six cruel yet beautiful Mersisters are played by: Addison Bowman (from Peoria), Isabella Conner (from New River), Tatum Dial (from Scottsdale), Talia Kahn (from Paradise Valley), Tiana Marks (from Chandler) and Avery Strachan (Laveen).

“These six are a force to be reckoned with…. their melodic voices are truly mesmerizing,” stated Mr. Cooper in the release.

Other noted young actors include: Sam Primack (from Scottsdale), playing Ursula’s shady side-kick Flotsam. Primack is a freshman at Chaparral High School. He notably appeared as Pugsley Addams on the Broadway national tour of The Addams Family. Primack is a true VYT veteran; this is his 16th production.

Rounding out the cast of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” are many talented, up-and-coming entertainers playing all sorts of colorful sea creatures and humans.

“Disney’s The Little Mermaid” opens in the Center Stage Theater at the Herberger Theater Center on June 10 and runs through June 26.  Shows run Thursday to Sunday and times vary according to the day.  Ticket prices start at $16.50 (not including fees) and price varies according to location, the release stated. Group pricing is available for summer camp shows.

For more information or to purchase tickets call the Herberger Box Office at 602-252-8497 or visit www.HerbergerTheater.org.

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