Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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Liberty brings a whole community under the sea

ELDERSBURG, Md. (Mar. 10) — The Drama Club at Liberty High School is performing Disney’s The Little Mermaid this weekend and next Friday and Saturday, and although the show is sung karaoke style, with a recorded sound track, not a live pit orchestra, some of the vocal talent put a finishing touch on what has been a strong effort from many students, teachers, and other adults in this Carroll County community.

The Little Mermaid at Liberty H.S. in Eldersburg, Md.
Liberty High School, Eldersburg, Md. (Voxitatis)

The mezzo voice of sophomore Rachel Jancarek, who plays Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, shows a natural versatility that not only allows her to develop an intimacy with the full range of her character’s emotions but also inescapably draws the ears of the audience when she’s one of four voices in a quartet and those of her love interest, the human Prince Eric, who is set up to pick his new bride based on her voice.

The wickedest octopus in musical theater, Ursula (senior Caprina Smith), covets Ariel’s voice and forces her to sign a contract, a sort of deal with the devil, giving up her voice in order to join the human world for a few days and try to get Prince Eric to fall in love with her. Ms Smith has performed in eight productions at Liberty and continues to shine a strong light on the creativity an education in music and the fine arts can bring out in hard-working students like her.

The ensemble, while filled with scores of students, many of whom played a few roles in the production, seemed not as well rehearsed as the leads. Singing and dancing were often tentative, and the background acting, where characters are little more than stage props, included just too much uncoordinated lip-syncing and gesture.

A few years ago, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation listed Liberty High School as one of two high schools in Maryland as being among the Best Communities for Music Education.

“Music and the arts make a very positive contribution to the general success of the school and connection to the community,” said University of Kansas researcher and professor Christopher Johnson. “Access to music and the arts in the curriculum is important in its own right and connects students to their own personal expression and creativity.”

The performances here were sold out yesterday and today, leading staff members to walk around the auditorium before the show could start, helping people find seats. In addition, there was a variety of merchandise and refreshments available before the show and during the intermission. The school has been able to provide $20,000 in scholarships every year for drama participants, according to the playbill, and ticket sales from just the first two performances, given a ticket price of $10, could be expected to bring in most of that.

In performance at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, Maryland, March 9 through 17, The Little Mermaid is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and book by Doug Wright. Musical productions in high schools often include the hard work of hundreds of students, teachers, and other community members. We write about them in support of new federal legislation in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which directs schools to include music and the arts as part of a “well-rounded education” for students in the US.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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