Debbie McIlrath called the preparations Monday “glorious chaos.”

The apt description captured the energy in Sterling Elementary School’s gym on Monday afternoon, when a group of students rehearsed for the first time in full costume before their debut of The Little Mermaid Jr. this week. The third- through fifth-grade student performers will put on their first show tonight for the school’s PTA.

A second showing will be offered for the community on Thursday at 6 p.m., and ticket sales will raise money for the production.

Tickets cost $5 for adults and $2 for students.

McIlrath, the show’s music director and music teacher at Sterling Elementary, encouraged community members to support the show, as the drama program teaches students valuable life skills.

“They learn to be comfortable in public, as public speakers, in the performance world,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity to share their gifts, whether it’s singing or dancing or public speaking.”

The musical is based on the beloved 1989 Disney classic and the 2008 Broadway production.

All the favorite characters, including Ariel, Ursula, Flounder, Sebastian and Prince Eric, stood onstage Monday wearing costumes the cast made with the help of the school’s art teacher and parents.

The school’s performing arts department puts on a winter and spring show annually. The Little Mermaid Jr. has a longer run time than most plays the students have done.

“We felt we were up to the challenge of doing a longer show,” McIlrath said.

The play includes eight parts with more than 40 lines, she said, which offers the students more opportunities to have bigger roles.

The show’s set was also made with the help of the arts program at Sterling Elementary. A beach scene stretches into King Triton’s throne room, which morphs into Ariel’s grotto. Ursula’s lair can be revealed by rotating the throne room, and the green and blue lagoon sits beneath the stage.

Some Brunswick High School students have volunteered to help with stage management and scene changes during the show.

McIlrath said she hopes to see drama programs offered at every school level, so students can continue to have the valuable experience of performing in a theatrical show.

“It’s a life skill that will benefit them when they want to get a job, and they could be doing this in middle school and high school,” she said.

Tickets will be sold prior to the performance by the student participants and will be available at the door for the show on Thursday.

Anyone with questions can contact McIlrath at

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