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Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

  • 1.  Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-05-2019 15:03
    I'm an enthusiastic parent who is directing for the second time. We're doing The Little Mermaid Jr. with 60 3rd - 5th graders. Last year we did Annie Jr. and casting was a bit of a breeze because we knew almost immediately who our leads would be. This year I'm learning that's not always the case. We just finished auditions and are going to do callbacks next week. My casting question has two parts (and sorry if my subject was misleading though if you want to way in on a boy being a mersister please feel free...we have one boy who I'm sure would love it)-

    1. Has anyone done more than 6 mersisters? We have a lot of really wonderful voices and, if we can figure out the mic situation, I'd love to have one group sing Daughters of Triton and another do She's In Love. Then have another group be the princesses. Is that complicating things unnecessarily? Or should I just go by grade and give the 5th graders roles since many of them won't continue performing in middle school?

    2. We don't get a lot of participation from boys, however, this year we had 10 boys audition. Five of them I'd like to consider for parts. They aren't the best fit, in all honesty girls would all play the part better, but I feel an obligation of sorts to cast them to encourage their interest in performing and so that boys in the community can see theatre as a possibility for themselves. Thoughts on whether casting for this reason alone is the best thing to do or to go with who is going to do the best job in the roles?

    Thank you!

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    Carla
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  • 2.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 08:32
    Welcome to the wonderful world of directing!
    In terms of casting boys or girls in a particular role, the choice may not be up to you.  Some companies are very specific about not allowing gender switching for lead roles.  Before you cast, you need to check your contract to see if they allow gender switches or not.

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    Robert Ellis
    Theater I-IV Honors
    Visual & Performing Arts Department Lead
    Cosby High School
    Midlothian, VA
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  • 3.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 22:15
    Thank you for pointing this out! I hadn't even thought of that. I just looked and it says we're not allowed to make any changes to the characters or characterizations. I read that as a male role must be played as a male role. In the director's book it states for the gender flexible roles that those parts should align to the gender of the performer. Which makes me think the male roles should still present as male even if played by a girl.

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    Carla
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  • 4.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 08:35
    Carla,

    We just produced Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID (the full version, not the Jr.) last spring. If you can pull it off, I would totally cast the Mersisters and the Princesses as separate actors. That costume change between The Contest and the Transformation is brutal.

    We also cast Scuttle with a female actor, but did not change the gender of the role. It worked just fine. Audiences loved him/her.

    Rich

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    Rich Luedeke
    Blackhawk Christian Theatre
    Fort Wayne, IN
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  • 5.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 22:16
    Excellent point about the costume change. Plus it gives me a place to put some of our more comedic performers. Thank you for pointing this out.

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    Carla
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  • 6.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 09:01
    I directed Little Mermaid Jr last year for our middle school 6th-7th grade.  I give you a lot of credit for directing 60 students at once, especially the younger ones.

    1. We had 6 mersisters but there is no reason you couldn't have more, however; you have to think about your costume budget.  If you have more mermaids that is more costumes you have to make so that is something to think about. I think it is a good idea to have a second group to be princesses because that would eliminate a costume change.

    2. I would cast as many boys as you can.  They don't have to have leads there are plenty of ensemble parts for boys.  Also, from my experience, given some coaching those boys might surprise you.

    Lastly, I had a boy play a mersister last year.  He actually wanted all girl roles including Ursula.  He did great.  He wore a wig and dressed as a girl but decided on wanting to wear merpants instead of a merskirt like the other mermaids.

    Hope this helps!
    Kristen

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    Kristen Bishoff
    Pasadena MD
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  • 7.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 22:19
    Oh! That's so great to hear that you had a boy as a mersibling (love this language from Myndee below!). I know we have one boy who might be very excited about being with the mersisters. The mermaid costumes are tough to make. Can you share how you made yours? And I'm glad you and the PP mentioned the costume change. However we make our tails, it's going to be tough to get them out of them and into fancy dresses without them feeling frazzled. Thank you!

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    Carla
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  • 8.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 09:40
    First, let me answer the question you didn’t really ask. If you have a boy that would love to be a Mersibling (see what I did there?) go for it. Be sure to address the issue of “girl parts” and “boy parts” and stereotypes. It’s a great learning opportunity. Check out The Broadway BodyPositivity Project, for a lot of info on “untraditional casting”.
    As to your other questions, the beauty of using Junior versions, the director has a huge amount of flexibility. If you have the talent, I saw go for it! As for casting boys, I do think it is really important to show boys on stage.

    Sent from my iPad




  • 9.  RE: Casting Little Mermaid Jr.: Gender & Mersisters

    Posted 12-06-2019 22:28
    Love the term "mersibling!" And I'm about to lose so many hours going down the internet rabbit hole with the Broadway Body Positivity Project. I appreciate all of this.

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    Carla
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