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It's Our Turn: Cherishing a Chanhassen childhood

This past weekend, I traveled to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre with a friend and her cousin to see its newest production: The Little Mermaid. I’d grown up both watching Disney movies and going to Chanhassen performances, so this was the ultimate collision of my childhood.

So naturally, I was super excited, especially since I’d seen Beauty and the Beast at the Chanhassen a few years ago and it was nothing short of spectacular.

The Little Mermaid is one of my all-time favorite Disney movies (even though it’s hard to pick favorites with Disney), and I couldn’t wait to see how they would bring it to life on stage and in person.

Most of all, I wanted to see how they would pull off the underwater and swimming effects.

We took our seats at the table and looked over at the stage, decorated in gray structures to mimic rocky formations, illuminated with turquoise, ebbing and flowing with light and shadows to recreate the ethereal atmosphere of an ocean floor. Gorgeous.

I’ll admit, when Ariel first appeared with a green tailfin flowing from her backside, I was surprised. The fin was slightly translucent, showing the internal round skeleton that allowed the fin to sway like a real mermaid tail would (because we all know mermaids are totally real…).

Beneath the fin, Ariel wore a sky blue layered maxi skirt that looked like it was made out of the lushest and most flowing material in existence.

Overall, her ensemble was unique, and I was a little skeptical. But when she started walking and added gentle movements to glide around the stage, it all came together. The skirt undulated around her legs like the current, her arms lifted gracefully as though floating, and her fin swayed ever so slightly to give the impression of movement. It was quite the mechanical masterpiece.

Then there were the sidekicks, Flounder, Sebastian, Scuttle, starfish and seahorses, to name a few. They were all in flamboyant costumes that personified the original characters but left the rest up to our imaginations.

My favorite part of the show was when the cast sang the original songs: Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl, etc. (Though no voice can ever rival Jodi Benson’s original rendition of Part of Your World.) Those were the nostalgic moments when my childhood would take control and encourage me to dance and sing along.

That’s what I love about stage performances. You’re there, you’re in the moment, you’ve got the energy from the cast flowing through you. It just makes you want to get up and join them.

Everyone should see a live performance at some point in their life. There’s no way to really describe the experience unless you’ve felt it for yourself. And honestly, whenever I see live plays, I’ve got a smile etched on my face throughout the entire performance. They’re just so much fun!

Another great part of the play was seeing the new scenes and songs added to help the movie translate to the stage. Now, I know they were written by the original composer, Alan Menken, but there was still a part of me that found them inferior to the original soundtrack. I’m sure if I had grown up with them, I’d find them just as endearing, but alas, that’s not the case.

The performance made us laugh and put a sparkle in every eye of the audience full of little girls dressed in princess poof and glitter. Seriously, though, there were so many little girls there, it felt like an 8-year-old girl’s birthday on steroids.

But the kid in my heart joined them and will continue to join them. It’s hard to imagine ever growing out of the magic of Disney or not going to another Chanhassen production, so I won’t stop. I’ll keep making memories and looking forward to the next time I get to see my childhood come to life on stage.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Jessica Sly

Jessica Sly has been working as a content writer at the Echo Press since May 2012, contributing, proofreading and editing content for both the Echo and Osakis Review. A Wadena native, she graduated from Verndale High School in 2009 and worked that summer at the Wadena Pioneer Journal as an intern reporter. She attended Northwestern College in St. Paul (now the University of Northwestern - St. Paul), where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in writing and a minor in Bible. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the piano (and learning the violin), reading, writing novels, going to the movies, and exploring Alexandria.

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