Bayside elementary students dive ‘Under the Sea’ for their musical

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THE COURIER/Photo by Paulina Tam


Bayside’s P.S. 31 is mounting an ambitious stage production of “The Little Mermaid,” an adaptation of the 1989 Disney animated musical classic.

In the school’s production, huge movable sets of underwater caves and boulders grace the stage alongside the sea — long, blue, flowing drapes that are flanked by student crew members on each side. Costumes consist of colorful wigs, feathers and sequins.

Director and music teacher Will Coppola and producer and art teacher Ashley Ciccotelli were nervous when initially approaching the design and construction of the set.

“How were we going to make one tiny little elementary school stage both the beach and the underwater scenes?” Coppola said. “We found out that we can use fabric to create the waves and the lighting to create the underwater scenery.”

Stage fright and keeping the students focused through many rehearsals were some of the challenges that Coppola and Ciccotelli faced since the cast’s first rehearsal in January.

“We have to constantly remind ourselves that the students are only 9 or 10 years old but they perform — in my opinion — so professional in quality that when I see them outside of class I think ‘Oh, they’re still kids,’” he said.

Student Grace Wansor plays Princess Ariel. Coppola remembers having her for a class during her first year teaching at P.S. 31.

“She barely spoke in my class,” he said. “I can definitely say that I was completely floored when she auditioned for the part. She was not even on my radar and then she tried out and blew us all out of the water.”

Emilia Salazar did not get a leading part last year but she listened to and watched the film on repeat while continuously practicing her singing and acting skills until she landed the role of Ursula.

“I’m just a little nervous for the show but I’m going to fight through it,” she said. “I want to give it all I got so people would think that this is the best musical that P.S. 31 has ever put on.”

“The Little Mermaid” will take place in P.S. 31’s auditorium on Thursday, June 12, and Saturday, June 14, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 each.