The Auburn Community Players will be performing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. this Friday and Saturday.

The ACP Summer Theater Program started on July 6, and over 40 cast and crew have been rehearsing songs and lines, blocking scenes, building scenery and making costumes in preparation for this weekend’s performances.

The Little Mermaid, Jr., is an adaptation of the Broadway show by the same name (sans the ‘Junior’), designed for younger performers.  The musical adds some additional songs that were not in the famously popular Disney movie from 1989.  But, of course, it does also feature classic favorites like ‘Kiss the Girl’, ‘Under the Sea’, and ‘Le Poisson’.

It is amazing to watch some of these youngsters – all are between fourth and eighth grade – handle some challenging songs with so much maturity. Ashley Deneault, a newcomer to the ACP program, landed the role of Ariel after dazzling the staff with her voice.  John Nichols, who played Willy Wonka in last year’s performance of Willy Wonka and the chocolate Factory, is back, this time as Prince Eric, and he pretty well nails it.  The ever popular crab Sebastian is played by now-veteran performer, Patric Cambell.

The three combine to bring a truly entertaining show to stage, if Tuesday’s rehearsal was any indication.

“Some of these kids have been doing this camp for four or five years now” says director Christine Taylor.  Taylor was the first director of the summer theater program while it was still under the auspices of the Department of Recreation and Culture.  The program started with Kamp Kaos, followed by Pom Pom Zombies, both short, limited release plays designed and written specifically for youth theater programs.

In 2012, the Auburn Community Players were born.  The camp that year did Alice in Wonderland, which was a big step up from the smaller productions the program had done.  “The kids had

Cast members rehearse a scene - Maeve Cahill (left) and Taylor Smith lift Ava Brown (Flounder) during a musical number.  (Photo Jeff LaBonte)

Cast members rehearse a scene – Maeve Cahill (left) and Taylor Smith lift Ava Brown (Flounder) during a musical number. (Photo Jeff LaBonte)

some experience, they kept coming back and getting better, and I thought they could handle it” said Taylor.  As the ACP makes a name for itself, the group draws kids from beyond Auburn, allowing for more and larger performances.

It doesn’t hurt that Taylor has been involved with theater her entire life, and that she and husband Scott Taylor recently took over the Stageloft Repertory Theatre in Sturbridge.  Taylor is able to draw on talented musicians, choreographers, set builders and assistants to give the camp’s participants a true feel for putting together a professional production.

Madison Poshkus as 'Sandy' the mouse-loving chef in Kamp Kaos in 2011 (Jeff LaBonte photo)

Madison Poshkus as ‘Sandy’ the mouse-loving chef in Kamp Kaos in 2011 (Jeff LaBonte photo)

The crew includes local theater veteran Madison Poskus who, at just 14, has an extensive list of appearances in local theater.  She came up through the ACP program, starting with Kamp Kaos, and is now one of the assistant directors for The Little Mermaid.  Poshkus also plans to perform in ACP’s high school theater program production of Shrek later in August.

Speaking to the caliber and experience of Taylor’s young crew, assistant Kat Meyer missed Monday’s session, as she was attending an audition for a role in the Phantom of the Opera ensemble in New York City.  Choreographer Jackie Johnson also has extensive experience as a performer, dancer and instructor and has been with ACP almost since the beginning.

With the experience of the performers, cast and directors, it should probably not be surprising the caliber show this group can stage in just 2 weeks beginning to end.  Still, it is quite astounding for these youngsters to pull it off.

While tickets are in high demand – Friday’s 7pm performance sold out in minutes – there are some available for the Saturday performances at 3pm and 7pm.  Tickets are $5 cash at the door for the public, but