Making a splash: How Persephone Theatre takes The Little Mermaid from sea to stage

Photo credit: The cast of Disney’s The Little Mermaid perform Under The Sea at Persephone Theatre on April 10, 2024. (Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

Fortunately, Persephone’s creative team knows a little theatre magic — it’s a talent that they happen to possess — and could use it on behalf of Saskatoon audiences this spring.

With gadgets and gizmos a’plenty, whozits and whatzits galore — and a whole lot of pool noodles, bath loofahs, sculpted Styrofoam and UV lights — the design team at Persephone Theatre created an underwater kingdom on stage this spring.

Here’s how they blended movie magic with live performance, found new flourishes in a well-loved tale, and made their vision of The Little Mermaid part of our world.

“An opportunity to showcase everything they can do”

When artistic director Heather Cant was planning Persephone Theatre’s 49th season — focused on love, in all its forms — she wanted to end on a splashy, bold, dramatic high note.

“I really wanted Persephone to be able to delve into spectacle,” said Cant. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do a big show like this. Since the pandemic happened, we’ve had to do smaller things.”

With The Little Mermaid — a story full of star-crossed lovers, dramatic magical transformations and iconic musical numbers, with an 18-person cast to bring it to life — Cant knew she’d found her season-finale musical in these mysterious fathoms below.

“It felt like it was time for a show that had a lot of theatre magic and spectacle to it, that would give artists and audiences an opportunity to showcase everything they can do and fall in love with theatre all over again,” she said.

While this production “took a lot of inspiration from the original Disney animation,” translating cartoon-effects into live performance was always going to be an adventure.

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