Teen to live childhood dream by starring as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid'
When Kaitlin McCallion was a little girl, she spent hours dreaming of being Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
“I loved Flounder. I would listen to his big song, ‘She’s in Love,’” she said. “As I grew older, I would listen to the songs, put on my pretty dresses and twirl around my room.”
McCallion added, “it was ‘The Little Mermaid’ that brought me out to audition. I’m always looking for auditions and I have a really long history of loving ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Actually, when I was about eight, my mom and my brother saw the original production on Broadway and brought home the original CD and I fell in love with it.”
When McCallion, 18, of Myersville, Md., was in middle school, her friend’s school performed the show.
“I grabbed my friend’s script one day and recited all of Ariel’s lines, sang all of her songs in her basement,” she said. “It’s been a long journey of loving Ariel and loving the show in general. I have always wanted to play her. It’s been kind of a dream.”
McCallion’s dream is coming true as she stars as Ariel in the The Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children’s Theater mainstage production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” beginning Friday, June 21, and running through Saturday, Aug. 24. The shows, which include a buffet meal, are on Friday and Saturday evenings and one Sunday and are appropriate for ages five and older.
Ariel is the lead character in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which is based on the 1989 animated film and Hans Christian Andersen’s tale about a young mermaid who dreams of becoming a human. The role is McCallion’s first with The Washington County Playhouse. She graduated from high school early as a home-school student and went on to earn an associate degree in theater from Frederick Community College. She will attend West Virginia University in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in theater.
While being so familiar with the show was helpful in many aspects of the theatrical process, it also presented a challenge.
“It was definitely very daunting coming in because Ariel is such a well-known character and ‘The Little Mermaid’ is such a well-known show, but juggling that has been very exciting,” McCallion said. “I knew how I wanted to play the role, but I also got incredible insight from the director and from the team. I learned little things I can do to make the character and the show even better.”
The Washington County Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Shawn R. Martin directed the show. Martin led the actors in an exploration and analysis of the characters and their relationships.
“We delved far into the script. I was very familiar with the movie and Broadway versions, but there were some changes in our script,” McCallion said. “We explored the relationships with a big emphasis on Ariel and her father. We went in depth regarding her search for acceptance from her family and from herself.”
Five-year Washington County Playhouse veteran Scott Ruble, 40, of Hagerstown, plays Sebastian, a Jamaican crab who is the servant, advisor and court composer for Ariel’s father, King Triton.
Ruble has acted in roles at The Playhouse including Marty in “Madagascar,” the emcee in “Cabaret” and Carmen Carrera in “The Producers” before bringing Sebastian to life, who is often tasked with watching over Ariel.
“(Sebastian) is basically the right-hand man to King Triton and carries out a lot of orders for him. He is appointed to mentor and to follow Ariel, to keep her out of trouble,” Ruble said.
Doing so proves to be no easy task, as the princess gives up her singing voice to a sea witch in exchange for legs so she can go on land.
“She has to regain her voice so that she can have her ‘happily ever after,’” Ruble said.
“If Only,” a ballad that is not in the film and features Sebastian, Ariel, King Triton and Prince Eric, is one of Ruble’s favorites. The quartet about devotion shows the caring side of Sebastian, he said.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is likely to leave audiences feeling happy.
“It’s the typical Disney thing where everyone ends up living happily ever after,” Ruble said. “People will walk out singing tunes from the show, just having a joyous reaction to their evening out.”
Top photo: Kaitlin McCallion as Ariel in The Washington County Playhouse’s production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” (Courtesy of Crystal's Candids)