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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Little Mermaideleh’ blows crowd out of the water

Published: September 14, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

This year’s 24 Hour Musical performed “The Little Mermaideleh” on Sunday night, and was received by an enthusiastic full house in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater. Produced jointly by the Hillel Theater Group and Tympanium Euphorium, the show offered the audience the classic tale, The Little Mermaid, with a slightly Jewish twist.

“The Little Mermaideleh” was directed by Viktoria Lange ’13, Ell Getz ’13 and Yoni Bronstein ’13. Within the show, Ariel (Caley Chase ’16), a mermaid who constantly longs for life on the surface, falls in love with the human, Prince Eric (David Getz ’15) on one of her regular trips to the surface to collect human artifacts with the help of Scuttle (Levi Squier ’14), an ill-informed but good-natured seagull. Her dream is vigorously opposed by her father King Triton (Zane Rutherford ’13), who after losing his queen and Ariel’s mother to humans in an unspecified incident, cannot see humans as anything other than murderous brutes. Determined to keep his daughter safe, Triton assigns his royal advisor Sebastian (Jason Dick ’14) and Ariel’s best friend Flounder (Kate Davis ’14) to watch out for Ariel, assigning them to keep her distracted from thoughts about humans.

Ariel is soon contacted by the evil sea witch Ursula (Eliza Dumais ’14) who offers to make a deal with Ariel: In exchange for her voice, she will be given legs so that she may be with Prince Eric. In a contractual snare, Ursula tells Ariel that she must woo Prince Eric and kiss him within three days, or else Ursula will claim her soul. Despite this ominous prospect, Ariel manages to not only defeat Ursula’s magic, but also convince Triton to permit her to marry Prince Eric.

The 24 Hour Musical is often praised for the freedom that the involved students have with the scripts—during the performance it’s perfectly alright for actors to improvise if they forget lines or lyrics, and directors sometimes make changes to the show overall, such as the Jewish theme of the show. It was not just the title that was changed, however, but other subtle aspects of the show as well, such as Prince Eric asking if Ariel’s name was “Rachel,” “Rebecca” or “Leah,” and Joey Rosen ’14 officiating the wedding as a Rabbi.

Almost as anticipated as the title of the musical itself are the mistakes made during the performance. Each musical provides its own set of muck-ups, missed cues and improvisation, and “The Little Mermaideleh” was no different. One of the best instances of this was when Getz ’15 accidentally used the word “whore” instead of “her” to describe Ariel—a slip of the tongue that had the audience roaring in laughter for a good 30 seconds. Additionally, the actors and audience alike had no qualms about breaking the “fourth wall” that traditionally exists between the two. This led to both entertaining exchanges and helpful interjections, such as when the entire theater attempted to warn Dick ’14 that he was about to be hit with a piece of the backdrop as it collapsed during a scene change. Seconds after he half-dove behind the curtain, he emerged to thank those who had warned him.

The 24 Hour Musical is a yearly tradition at Brandeis in which students put on a musical in almost exactly 24 hours (there is, of course, an unofficial tradition of starting the show a bit late). Students spend a week auditioning for the show, and are only told what it is and who they are cast as at 8 p.m. the night before the show’s performance. Over the next 24 hours, they build sets, choreograph dances, learn songs, memorize blocking and lines and try desperately to find time to grab a precious two or three hours of sleep. This chaos then culminates into an 8 p.m. performance the next day.

The passion of the students involved in the show is matched equally by its audience’s dedication to have a seat inside the theater. As in years past, tickets were sold out within minutes of release to the public. Kelsey Segaloff ’15 seemed to embody this passion, as she waited in the SCC from 2 p.m. to get both a ticket and the best seat possible (the first few rows were reserved for faculty, reporters, techies and the show’s production crew). Despite her lengthy stay in the SCC, Segaloff told The Hoot that she believes [her] “experience was worthwhile,” explaining that the freedom actors have to make mistakes helped cement her appreciation of the 24 Hour Musical.

To accommodate as many audience members as possible, the production crew set up a live streaming of the show in the Atrium outside of the theater, which according to stage manager Kelsey Strouse ’13, was paid for generously by Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment, Andrew Flagel. This allowed many more students to see the show than would have been possible, and was much appreciated by the student body.