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Longfellow Middle School's theater director retires on 'Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr.'

Gavin Coleman, center and the Longfellow Middle School cast of Disney's Little Mermaid Jr. rehearse Tuesday, April 22 at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa. Performance will be Thursday, May 1 & Friday, May 2 at 7pm and Saturday, May 3 at 4pm.

Gavin Coleman, center and the Longfellow Middle School cast of Disney's Little Mermaid Jr. rehearse Tuesday, April 22 at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa. Performance will be Thursday, May 1 & Friday, May 2 at 7pm and Saturday, May 3 at 4pm. Photo By Michael McLoone

April 22, 2014

After serving as theater director for 10 years at Longfellow Middle School, Kate Dombrowski will retire on the spring musical, "Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr."

"Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr." is an abridged version of the Broadway, written especially for middle school actors. Dombrowski has always been a "big sucker for fairy tales," she said, and thought it would be a colorful and fun production that students would recognize.

The story is the same as the Disney movie and includes musical favorites such as "Under the Sea." The only song audience members won't recognize is "She's in Love," a 1960s-style girl group song from the original Broadway play that is not in the Disney movie.

Will Ulrich coaches students' voices as musical director but all the production's music comes from a CD.

"I think we have pretty amazing voices for this age level," Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski joined Longfellow Middle School as a librarian in 1999 and became its theater director in the 2003-04 school year.

Her husband, Dave, is a retired Greenfield High School theater director and volunteers as Dombrowski's technical director at Longfellow.

"We've been a theater team since 1989." The two met at Greenfield as teachers.

Creating staging

Dombrowski said creating props requires creativity as Longfellow's theater is self-supported, meaning its budget is what is earned from ticket and concession sales.

They can't put everything on stage to create an underwater set. But there are prop pieces for Ariel's grotto and coral.

"I always assume I have an intelligent audience that can fill in all the things they don't see," said Dombrowski.

Ariel, played by eighth-grader Erin O'Brien, does not have red hair and will not wear a wig. "I think that princesses can have any color hair that we want," Dombrowski said.

Ariel's skirt has a train to simulate a mermaid tail. Starfish will be dressed in yellow with stars on their head. Eight girls will play the sea by dressing in all blue and waving blue capes to simulate water movement.

Ursula, played by eighth-grader Lizzie Porter, will wear a heavy burgundy gown that will drape over a stool on wheels. Six students will play Ursula's tentacles and will move Porter while she sits on the portable stool.

Simon Hartman-Keiser, eighth grade, is Eric; Gavin Coleman, seventh grade, is Sebastian; Noah Muhammed, eighth grade, is King Triton; and Julia Sanders, sixth grade, will play Flounder.

There are 50 cast members and 34 crew members.

Longfellow's fall, non-musical production was Robin Hood, written by Dombrowski. She also wrote "A Little Princess" for Longfellow, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel.

"Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr." will be Dombrowski's 20th show at Longfellow.

"I'm going to walk away from this part of my life with a great deal of happiness and satisfaction and sadness, but no regret of any kind."

Dombrowski resides in Greendale and expects to substitute teach, work with community theater and volunteer at the public libraries upon her retirement.

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