Ellie Condello has been dreaming of a world under the sea since she was three.
“That’s when I first saw the movie The Little Mermaid, or so my mom tells me,” laughs Condello, a senior at Analy High School. “I immediately fell in love with the character of Ariel, and dreamed of being her. My mom has countless Halloween pictures of me dressed as Ariel.”
This weekend, Condello will get to do more than just dress up as Ariel. In Santa Rosa Junior College’s lavish production of Disney’s musical adaptation of The Little Mermaid, she’ll be playing the iconic role, singing and dancing with an array of fish, eels and other creatures of the deep. The show is directed by John Shillington, and will be held in the theater at Maria Carrillo High School, where the junior college is staging many of its shows as the Burbank Auditorium, on the junior college campus, undergoes extensive renovations.
“I love Ariel’s story, and I admire her as a character,” says Condello, seen earlier this year in the Raven Players’ production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. “When I auditioned at the JC, I really didn’t think I’d get Ariel. I just wanted to be a part of the show. When I was called back for a second audition, I was actually surprised. And then they called and said, ‘We want you to play Ariel!’ It was crazy. I still can’t believe it.”
The production, she says, will be different from other stagings of the musical, in part because the theater at Maria Carrillo lacks the height of the junior college stage. Characters that seemed to fly or swim through the air in the past with elaborate “fly” systems, will now achieve a similar affect through dance.
“We also have Heelys in the show,” she says, referencing those shoes with wheels in the heels, which make the Little Mermaid characters appear to glide along though the ocean rather than, you know, walk.
“That’s been a challenge, I admit,” Condello says. “But I’m getting pretty good at it.”
Asked what the best part of playing Ariel onstage is, the young actor, who hopes to make theater here lifelong career, is quick to reply.
“Oh, everything,” she says. “Everything! This really has literally been a dream come true.”