Shawnee Mission South Theatre’s winter musical “Little Mermaid” to open Thursday

SM South Theatre preforms "Under the Sea" during dress rehearsal.
SM South Theatre preforms “Under the Sea” during dress rehearsal.

Megan Berning couldn’t have dreamed of a better role for her final musical of her high school career. She’ll be playing her favorite Disney princess as Shawnee Mission South opens up their three-night run of ‘The Little Mermaid.’

Berning, who will be playing Ariel, said the role is a lot of fun, which has a lot of moving parts. One minute she’ll be gliding on Heelys to mimic a mermaid’s movement and the next she’ll be soaring through the air on cables.

MermaidPoster

“I have to rely on tech a lot and trust them a lot,” Berning said. “For example, the flying is not within my control as far as my tail — that was all costumes. They’ve all done an awesome job. I totally trust tech to support me and make everything look good.”

Berning said it took time getting used to wearing the Heelys and rolling on stage, but after practice she became more comfortable with them. She said that coupled with the different moving parts was easy to know where to be since she’s been on this stage for four years.

She’s hoping this role will connect with a young student, who might want to take the Shawnee Mission South stage one day.

“I love kids and seeing their reaction and how excited this show could make them; it’s magic to them,” Berning said. “That’s why I do this. I love inspiring people, especially kids and if I can inspire a kid to do theater someday or just make them happy for a few hours.

“We have two matinees on Wednesday and Thursday that are all for elementary school kids. Those are probably my favorite performances because the kids are such an honest audience. If a villain comes on stage they’ll boo them. They’re so honest and it’s so pure and beautiful.”

This production will break the fourth wall a bit as the cast won’t engage with the audience, but they’ll look out and see if people are singing along with the songs.

Senior Zach Greer, who plays Sebastian, said he’s excited to see how the elementary students, and even teachers, react to how the cast portrays the characters from when they saw the movie.

“We did ‘Wizard of Oz’ last year and I was the Cowardly Lion,” Greer said. “I saw adults mouthing the words to ‘King of the Forest.’ That was really fun to look out and (make) a connection. I’m sure the kids — ‘Part of Your World,’ ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Kiss the Girl’ — will pick up on really quick.”

Greer is trying to be as authentic in his role from the movements of a lobster to the accent.

“It’s full Samuel E. Wright coming,” Greer said. “That’s been the most difficult part — the accent. It’s more where I place it in my mask area. It’s not a growling-type thing, but more of a nasal-type thing.”

‘Little Mermaid’ runs Thursday to Saturday at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

SM South senior Megan Berning swims through the air during a musical ensemble during dress rehearsal.
SM South senior Megan Berning swims through the air during a musical ensemble during dress rehearsal.