NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The Masquers of West Essex, the drama club at West Essex Regional High School (WEHS), has been hard at work putting together the final touches of its spring musical, “The Little Mermaid.”

When the curtain opens on Thursday, WEHS will present its largest cast in many years with 40 students, who director Christa Rizzo said have all been “giving their all to the production.” She added that the cast and crew work great together and was enthusiastic about some of the special effects the production pulls off.

“This musical is very close to a lot of people's hearts, and it's always enjoyable to put on something that people have a deep connection to,” said Rizzo. “A lot of people relate to ‘The Little Mermaid’ in a very personal way, and to be able to take some of those feelings and put them on stage is a very unique experience.”

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Stating that the entire production will be “enormously enjoyable to all ages,” music director Donna Mateyka encouraged the community to come see the “talented cast, wonderful set and great pit orchestra” this weekend. 

“Why wouldn't you want to see ‘The Little Mermaid?’” said choreographer Shaun Salmon. “The costumes alone are insane, and it's very family friendly.”

Salmon said she is most excited about working with the two female leads, who are also the captains of the dance team he coaches. As it will be the final WEHS production for the two seniors, Salmon said the production is going to be “bittersweet.”

“They are remarkably talented young women who I've had the privilege of working with for four years and it's great to watch them work together for the last time,” she said.

Salmon, who was part of Masquers when she attended WEHS, said the program helped to foster her interest in the arts. She described the program as a safe space for students to connect with the arts as well as grow as performers.

Masquers of West Essex is made up of students in grades 9-12 who enjoy learning about and participating in all of the areas of theatre. Rizzo, who has been directing the program for the past eight seasons, said it has been a “true joy” to share her love of theatre with the students, and to watch them grow in skill and confidence from year to year.

The WEHS production of “The Little Mermaid” opens this weekend with showings on Thursday, March 9 at 7 p.m., Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 11 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“I think that the community will really enjoy this production,” said Rizzo. “It's visually stunning and has some amazing music. It's just a lot of fun and has a lot of heart.”

Tickets are available at westex.org/masquers or at the door.

All photos were provided by Rizzo.