PORT ANGELES — It’s been 15 years since Ariel faced down Ursula the sea witch, married Prince Eric and changed into a human.
The protagonist of “The Little Mermaid” has moved to the big city, traded her shell bra for a power pantsuit and ditched Eric. (He turned out to be a real jerk.)
She’s in legal trouble and wants to return home.
Ariel, along with Flounder, Sebastian, King Triton, Ursula and a couple of new “Little Mermaid” characters get the panto treatment in PA Panto’s “Ethel Mermaid & the Varying Degrees of Evil” presented by the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts in nine performances this weekend and next at the Peninsula College Little Theater, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and at 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday, as well as 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16 with 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 16 and Dec. 17.
Tickets are $25 for adults; $15 for students (ages 18-21 with valid student ID); $10 for youths 17 and younger. Tickets are $5 more at the door.
“Ethel Mermaid” was conceived, written and directed by the creative team of Shannon Cosgrove and Naomi Alstrup. The family-friendly show is a traditional British panto mashup of comedy, music and dance that has been transplanted to … Pysht.
“It’s telling a story that’s set in this small town with a lot of local references,” JFFA Executive Director Kyle LeMaire said. “It’s bringing art to the community and community to the art.”
Eccentricity, audience participation and disregard for the fourth wall (the imaginary wall that separates the stage and audience) are central to the spirit of panto, whose plots are usually takeoffs of well-known fairy or folk tales.
Cosgrove and Alstrup’s inspiration for “Ethel Mermaid” is Walt Disney’s 1989 animated feature, “The Little Mermaid,” which was based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of the same name first published in 1837.
Cosgrove called PA Panto’s version, “‘Little Mermaid’ in a blender pushing the frappé button.”
One of the reasons panto is popular, Cosgrove said, is the interaction between performers and audience, who are invited to join in the action. Participation is encouraged but not required. (If you’re not interested in being part of the show, Cosgrove suggested not sitting on the aisle.)
You’re invited to boo at the villains, say “awwwww” when a couple kiss and sing along to the music. (Another hint from Cosgrove: Brush up on the chorus of Tina Turner’s “The Best.”)
Afraid of clowns, creeped out by mimes or turned off by slapstick? Not to worry, because they don’t appear in “Ethel Mermaid.”
Some of the humor might fly over the heads of children, Cosgrove said, but parents need not worry because it is good clean fun. And there is candy.
“We want children to have as total an experience as their parents have,” Cosgrove said.
Performers Zade Harris, a Port Angeles High School senior, and Emily MacAliley, a Sequim High School senior, are this year’s recipients of a scholarship program sponsored by PA Panto and JFFA for students who have participated in panto for at least three years.
“They don’t have to be going into the performing arts,” Cosgrove said. “We just want you to take what you have learned out into the world and do good things.”
“Ethel Mermaid’s” cast of 10 principals, eight children and three dancers has been rehearsing since September.
Steve Methner State Farm is presenting PA Panto’s “Ethel Mermaid & the Varying Degrees of Evil” with the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts, and the show is supported by Cabled Fiber & Yarn and The Blackbird Coffeehouse.
This will be Steve Methner’s fourth year performing in a PA Panto show, but the first time he’ll have a solo, singing “Anyway I Want It” — a twisted take on the Journey hit.
Methner said he enjoys performing in PA Panto shows because they appeal to a wide range of ages.