The students will perform ‘The Little Mermaid’ Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 27 and 28. LANE McKELVEY/Keys Weekly

It takes a village to put on a show. Just ask Jack Louden.

“The students have worked very hard and we have been faced with some unique challenges this year,” said Louden, gazing up at the stage. Louden is the music director and producer for the Switlik Elementary production of “The Little Mermaid.”

School construction has turned the stage into the library and media center, in addition to the set for the production. This is the third year of musical productions at Switlik and this production showcases 35 students between third and sixth grades. Auditions were held in November and rehearsals began right after Thanksgiving, three days a week until 5 p.m. 

“The show must go on,” Louden said, as costumes, some on loan from Marathon Community Theatre, glittered in the light behind him,.

“Shannon Wiley, the art teacher, designed and created the set with help from the Art Club he formed this year,” Louden said. “Students from Marathon High School serve in backstage roles such as costume changes, hair, makeup and food for the kids during the two nights of the show.”

Backstage, students line the wall, giggling with excitement. Fluffing wigs, Janie Sperry and Shilo Yeider, who play the menacing eels Flotsam and Jetsam, share smiles. “We have awesome costumes and wigs and (our characters) get to spy on everyone.We also have cool hand motions,” the girls said. 

“I love all the singing and dancing,” Tinashay Cunningham said of her part as Sebastian the crab, sidekick to Ariel the mermaid (Mia Marchino).

“Michele Licause and Stacy Gonzales did all the choreography and blocking for this musical,” Louden said, observing the choreography rehearsal for Ursula the sea witch, (Addison Collins). He credits the women who have worked tirelessly to help the students prepare, ensuring each student feels comfortable with the dancing.

Additionally, the community is coming together to make the production a reality and support the students in their theatrical endeavors. This year the community connects to the show through several Marathon church congregations, sharing their talents.

“Lori Mandille is helping with audio; her husband is pastor at Martin Luther Lutheran Church.Deb LaFountain is also helping with audio; her husband is pastor at New Life Church. Chris Willis is a pastor and helping with audio and lighting, as well as his father; and I am music director at San Pablo Catholic Church,” Louden said. “Finally, Doug Lawes is a music minister at Keys Vineyard Church and has shared his expertise and time to improve our sound and lights!” 

Switlik students will perform “The Little Mermaid” on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 27 and 28, at 6 p.m. on stage in the cafeteria. Tickets can be purchased at the door, $5 for students and $8 for adults. 

As a reward for their hard work, Louden said, “The students will travel to the Arsht Center in May to see ‘The Lion King.’”

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