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The Little Mermaid: Cultural Park Theater opens Broadway season with Disney classic

By Staff | Sep 12, 2019

Wish you could be part of their world?

Starting this weekend, you can.

Cultural Park Theater opens its Broadway season tonight with a production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which runs until Sept. 22.

“Cultural Park is thrilled to open our 57th Culliton Gunterberg Broadway Season,” said Michael Moran, executive director for Cultural Park Theater. “The film of Little Mermaid, which premiered in 1989, was an immediate hit and remains so in the heart of people of all ages. It is a story that Cape Coral’s Cultural Park Theater has wanted to tell. We are proud to open our 2019/2020 season around ‘The Little Mermaid’ and Cultural Park Theater will bring you the full Broadway production. While others in the area have done the junior production at high schools, youth groups and churches, we’re the first to do the Broadway production. It just became available and we asked. We’re so happy to be able to do it.”

The Disney classic come to life is directed by Tyler Young and Samantha Pudlin, with Bridey Kearns handling the choreography.

The show features a youth cast of 36 actors, ages 8-18, who melodically tell the tale of Ariel, a young mermaid unsatisfied with her life “under the sea,” played by Emma Kane.

Sebastian, a Jamaican-accented crab that serves as King Triton’s advisor and has to watch over Ariel, is played by Tyler Connelly in a can’t-miss fashion. Connelly is the perfect comic relief, mixed with top-notch acting and stage presence.

Yovanna Ignjatic portrays the evil Ursula, a sea witch who is set on sabotaging Ariel’s chances of becoming part of the human world all the while attempting to take over her father’s throne. Ignjatic delivers the role in stellar fashion, bringing the bite and snarling qualities of the villainness to the Cultural Park stage.

“It’s exciting. It’s always an exciting time,” Young said of opening the season. “We get to kick things off in a more exuberant fashion. We try to always do a bigger name show for the kids because it’s an educational experience. We try to pick something the kids know — that they’re familiar with — but at the same time that our patron base is familiar with.”

Other leading roles include Georgia Rainero as Flounder, Emmanuel Tojanci as Prince Eric, Landon McCarthy as Grimsby and Nick Teeter as King Triton.

Young said the group is a multi-talented one, with performers of all backgrounds and skill sets blending together to tell a story.

“There’s all kinds of things to expect,” Young said. “We’ve got contortionist students that are practicing those kinds of skill, we’ve got kids that are vocalists that have been studying voice, we’ve got kids that are taking dance at multiple different studios across the city, so we’ve got all kinds of different skills coming together.

“We all try and pull out the different skills in each student, in each cast member, to give everybody a chance to shine in those moments. You’ll see all kinds of different things — things you may not see in a normal show because they don’t have a cast with (a certain) ability or a student who is learning skills or can learn new skills if asked.”

The Cultural Park stage transforms into an underwater spectacle, complete with vibrant costumes and lighting to match.

The cast can’t wait to start off the season with a show full of memorable tunes and nostalgic rhythms.

“Everyone’s excited,” Young said. “Though, it’s always stressful getting there, but in my opinion it teaches the kids some good skills and the ability to manage stress, manage different responsibilities and being able to manage different assignments and tasks that they have to pull together. It’s still a lot of work, but there’s reward at the end of every day.”

Young has been a part of Cultural Park Theater for five years, and has been running the youth program for four. He has stage credentials in his own right, and also runs the drama program at Gulf Elementary.

While “The Little Mermaid” is poised to start this season off with a big splash, Cultural Park will offer other selections throughout the year to entertain theater-goers.

The 57th season will include: “The Little Mermaid (Sept. 13-22),” “The Ghost In The Meadow” (Sept. 27 – Oct. 6); “On Golden Pond” (Oct. 25 – Nov. 3); “Spectacular Christmas Revue” (Dec. 11-15); “Nunsense” (Jan 10-19); “Same Time Next Year” (Feb. 7-16); “Urinetown the Musical” (Feb. 28- March 8); “The Owl & The Pussycat” (March 20-29); “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” (April 3-12); and “A Passage To Ireland” (April 24-May 3).

“We truly are excited to present a special 57th season with one blockbuster show after the other,” Moran said. “No sooner do we close ‘The Little Mermaid,’ do we open the Florida premiere of Joe Simonelli’s ‘The Ghost in the Meadow.’ Fans of old-fashioned ghost stories will enjoy this creepy thriller.”

The season features some favorites, including the Tony award-winning musical, Urinetown.

“Our season will continue with another classic play, ‘On Golden Pond,’ ‘Same Time Next Year,’ ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and ‘Nana’s Naughty Knickers,'” Moran said. “Attached to these is our family favorite ‘A Spectacular Christmas Revue,’ followed by a new musical revue of ‘A Passage to Ireland,’ which will take you through a journey of Irish culture with music old and new celebrating the best of the Emerald Isle.

“The season highlights two major musicals: Dan Grogan’s ‘Nunsense’ and the Broadway hit musical “Urinetown.'”

Each Broadway season is different at Cultural Park, with new challenges, new shows and even new faces.

“This was a challenging year for play selections as we wanted a host of shows on stage that everyone knows and loves,” Moran said. “Each year we poll our directors, actors, patrons and volunteers asking them what shows would they like to see on the Cultural Park stage. Then, we review each title to see what shows are the most popular and most affordable for a nonprofit and what shows can actually fit the stage here at Cultural Park. When all that work is done it’s sent off to our board for final approval and off we go. I think they chose very wisely this year and look forward to a wonderful season at Cape Coral’s, and one of Lee County’s, finest theaters.”

Broadway Season shows are performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $22 for adults, $19 for seniors (60-plus), $16 for students with ID and $10 for children under 12.

Season ticket and group rate pricing are also available.

The Cultural Park box office is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on performance weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You can also call the box office at 239-772-5862.

Cultural Park Theater is at 528 Cultural Park Blvd. in Cape Coral.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj