Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” features oodles of local talent

Valley Youth Theatre's "The Little Mermaid" production features young actors with big resumes.
Valley Youth Theatre’s “The Little Mermaid” (June 10-26) features young actors with big resumes.

A magical kingdom beneath the sea, a lovely young mermaid and a hauntingly beautiful love story—what more could you ask for?

It’s all there in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which Valley Youth Theatre will bring to the stage Friday, June 10 through Sunday, June 26. Based on a beloved story by Hans Christian Andersen and a 1989 Disney film, the production features music by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater and book by Doug Wright.

Playing Ariel, the mermaid who longs to leave her ocean home, is Kayla Dobbs, who will be a sophomore at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek in the fall. She recently won a National Youth Arts Award for Outstanding Lead Actress (Junior Division) in the Desert Foothills Youth Theater production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

To say she was happy to get the role is an understatement. “She started crying and jumping on her bed and laughing all at the same time,” says her mother, Jennifer Dobbs.

Taking the part of the handsome Prince Eric is Nathan Sheppard, last seen at VYT as Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“Honestly, this is a dream come true for me,” says Nathan, who is a recent graduate of Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix and plans to study musical theater under the Lyric Opera program at Arizona State University.

Tatumn Zale, a recent graduate of Xavier College Preparatory, makes her VYT debut as the manipulative sea witch Ursula. Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director, calls her “a true triple threat with an amazingly rich voice.”

Another newcomer to VYT is 10-year-old Kylan Chait, who plays Flounder, Ariel’s ever-loyal friend.

Sam Primack, a true VYT veteran (“Little Mermaid” is his 16th production), plays Flotsam, Ursula’s shady sidekick. Sam appeared as Pugsley Addams in the Broadway national tour of “The Addams Family” and is a freshman at Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School.

Clay Rollon, last seen as Naphtali in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” returns to VYT in the role of King Triton. A recent graduate of Desert Vista High School in Tempe, he plans to study marketing at the University of Arizona in the fall.

Appearing in his third VYT show is Ira Hill as Sebastian, an ever-dutiful cranky crab. A trained jazz vocalist, Ira sang with Grammy-nominated Dennis Rowland and the Count Basie Big Band at age 14. He recently released his first album, “Tomorrow.”

Playing Ariel’s full-of-sass Mersisters are Addison Bowman, Isabella Conner, Tatum Dial, Talia Kahn, Tiana Marks and Avery Strachan. “These six are a force to be reckoned with,” says Cooper. “Their melodic voices are truly mesmerizing.”

In all, the show boasts a talented cast of 44 young actors from across the Valley, adding up to “more talent under one roof than is imaginable,” according to Cooper. “This cast is going to blow your socks off.”

If you go: June 10-26; 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. $16.50 and up. 602-252-8497 or herbergertheater.org.