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"The Little Mermaid" presented by the Bank Street Players stars Kara Erickson as Ariel and Joe Dobbs of Madison as Prince Eric. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.

Madison actor to star in ‘The Little Mermaid’ at the Princess Theatre

Madison’s Joe Dobbs stars in Bank Street Player’s production of “The Little Mermaid” as Prince Eric

DECATUR – Take a curious mermaid, a trusty flounder, an anxious crab, an evil octopus and, of course, a prince charming, to get a classic under-the-sea adventure.

The curtain will rise on the Decatur-based community theater group Bank Street Players’ production of “The Little Mermaid” tonight at 7 at the Princess Theatre. Other shows will take place Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.

“Not only is this show magical, beyond belief, but it’s great for the whole family, and you won’t find a better way to spend a hot, summer night than under the sea,” director Drew Sybert said.

Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, which Disney made into an animated movie in 1989 and Broadway brought to the stage in 2008, “The Little Mermaid” follows Ariel, a mermaid, who dreams of becoming human, and, under the spell of Ursula, the octopus, trades her voice for legs.

“The stage version has all the moments you love from the animated film, but expands on those themes and ideas. The audience will get to dive deeper into the characters and their individual roles in the story,” Sybert said.

Leading the 50-plus member cast are Kara Erickson as Ariel and Joe Dobbs as Prince Eric.

“Ariel was my favorite Disney princess growing up, partially because of her red hair,” the 19-year-old Erickson, of Hartselle, who attends Ithaca College in New York, said. “I feel so honored to play Ariel. There are so many brilliant girls who are in the show that auditioned for the role. And you have to see the understudy, Ashleigh (Vickery), she is amazing.”

To make Ariel her own, Erickson focused on bringing depth to the character.

“I am playing her a bit more serious. I want people to relate to her and realize she is a real person, even though she is a princess. I found a lot of inspiration from Halle Berry,” Erickson said, referring to the actress who plays Ariel in the recently released live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

For Dobbs, the opportunity to challenge himself as an actor and play a Disney prince, attracted him to the role of Prince Eric.

“I had never played a Disney prince before,” the 20-year-old Dobbs, of Madison, who attends Texas Christian University, said. “Playing a Disney prince is completely different than anything I’ve done before. Playing a Disney prince, you have to live up to a standard. People come into the show knowing who the prince is. I hope to live up to that standard while also bringing a bit of me to the character.”

The musical features the popular songs “Daughters of Triton,” “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Les Poissons” and “Kiss the Girl.”

“My favorite moment in the show is at the end of ‘Part of Your World.” I look up and the light is shining directly down on me. I feel like Beyonce with the fan,” Erickson said.

Dobbs’ favorite moment occurs during the “If Only (Quartet),” which did not appear in the animated movie.

“It is sung by me, Ariel, King Triton and Sebastian. It is so beautiful. We are all singing about what we want. Ariel wants to get the prince and her voice back. Eric wants Ariel. King Triton wants to reunite with his daughter. Sebastian wants what is best for Ariel. I would call it the big climax of the show,” Dobbs said.

Like the “If Only (Quartet),” other songs in the stage version give audiences a deeper look into the characters.

“You really get to know these characters better. Scuttle has his own song. Flotsam and Jetsam get their own song, and it’s very creepy. And Flounder gets his own song,” Erickson said.

Along with Erickson and Dobbs, the cast features Caleb Baldwin as Sebastian, Nick Jones and Colton Scruggs as Flounder, Jessica Miller as Ursula, Marcus Patten as King Triton, Rietta Parker as Flotsam, Shea Glenn as Jetsam, Bailey Gammill as Scuttle, Vickery as Ariel’s understudy and Cara Elliott as Ursula’s understudy. Vickery and Elliott will perform during the Saturday matinee.

“My cast and crew are unmatched. I can’t begin to brag on the amount of talent and skills that our show contains. It’s a huge undertaking, and only this group of people could’ve made my vision for the story come to life,” Sybert said.

For Sybert, a highlight of the show is “The Storm,” which features the talents of the cast and the crew.

“It is a perfect combination of all the aspects of the show — the set, the lights, the costumes and the performers,” Sybert said.

Tickets to the show are available at princesstheatre.org and are $15-18.

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