little mermaid gavilan college ken christopher nicole king-yarbrough little theatre productions disney broadway south bay
Nicole King-Yarbrough and Ken Christopher star in “The Little Mermaid,” a full-length Disney musical put on by Little Theatre Productions and Broadway South Bay that is coming to Gavilan College in the summer. Courtesy of Broadway South Bay
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In the summer, South County audiences will be transported under the sea to experience a show of such a magnitude that has never been seen before locally.

That is what Ken Christopher and his fellow organizers of the newly formed Broadway South Bay organization plan to accomplish when they bring the Disney musical “The Little Mermaid” to the Gavilan College stage.

“It’s ambitious, but with every step we’re feeling more and more confident,” he said.

The Christopher Ranch Foundation, Little Theatre Productions and Gavilan College have teamed up to bring what is being billed as the first full-length Disney-licensed show to Gilroy.

Christopher, who is the president of the foundation, said South County has had many Disney musicals performed over the years, but they have been the junior versions with shorter lengths.

What will immediately jump out to audiences is the scale of the production, Christopher said, and the foundation has invested in various upgrades in the 400-seat theater, including new projection, lighting and sound equipment.

The organizers have also secured costumes from a professional theater group in Las Vegas, adding to the caliber of the performance.

Christopher, who is perhaps most well-known for his work in promoting California-grown garlic in his role as executive vice president at Gilroy-based Christopher Ranch, is rapidly growing his theater repertoire. He co-starred in South Valley Civic Theatre’s 2022 performance of “Beauty and the Beast,” and is currently co-producing and performing in the group’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which runs through March 18 in downtown Morgan Hill.

He said children struggled under the Covid-19 pandemic, with a lack of artistic outlets and events geared toward them. That point was hammered home during “Beauty and the Beast,” when Christopher said he saw countless children in the audience, dressed up as Disney princesses and excited to be a part of a family-friendly activity that was close to home.

Christopher sat down with co-star Nicole King-Yarbrough to begin brainstorming about bringing a larger theater experience to the area, and settled on “The Little Mermaid” as the show.

“I listened to the Broadway soundtrack, and it really brings the magic of the 1989 cartoon movie along with some really incredible songs that are going to be fresh and new for any audience,” he said.

But they knew they would need help to get such an ambitious project off the ground, so they eventually joined forces with Little Theatre Productions and Gavilan College.

“No one organization could pull off what we’re trying to pull off,” Christopher said. “All the synergies we bring to each other will make this a smashing success.”

Hilary Little of Little Theatre Productions said that over the nearly 10 years the company has been offering children’s performances in South County, audiences have frequently asked when it would be presenting an all-ages musical.

“This is something that has been on our radar for a while now and to see that vision finally become a reality is really quite thrilling,” she said. “We’re so excited to partner with Broadway South Bay to add to Gilroy’s growing theater community and bring a brand new high-caliber musical theater experience to theater lovers throughout the South Bay.”

Gavilan College will also create apprenticeships to staff the technical side of the production, while also offering scholarships to students to earn course credit in Theater Arts for their work on the show.

Auditions for “The Little Mermaid” will begin for ages 6 and up on April 22.

The leads have already been cast: Christopher as Prince Eric, King-Yarbrough as Ariel and Little as Ursula.

“We encourage actors of all ages to come out and audition for what is going to be potentially the biggest and flashiest Broadway experience that Gilroy has ever seen,” Christopher said.

“The Little Mermaid” is set to run three weekends at Gavilan College beginning July 28. For information, visit broadwaysouthbay.com.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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