Local student performs in South Jackson’s Little Mermaid

MCHS sophomore Iris Brown will perform in the South Jackson Civic Center’s musical version of The Little Mermaid beginning this Friday night. (Photo Credit: Michelle Barnett Photography)

ARTS & MUSIC | Tullahoma — It’s Monday, July 5. Almost everyone is getting the day off for Independence Day, but not Moore County High School sophomore Iris Brown. It’s 5 p.m. and she’s got a rehearsal for The Little Mermaid in 30 minutes. The South Jackson Civic Center (SJCC) in Tullahoma will present the Broadway musical version of classic fairytale for two weekends beginning this Friday, July 9 and ending on Sunday, July 18.

Loosely based on the 1837 Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, The Little Mermaid tells the story of a young mermaid named Ariel, obsessed with life on land. After falling in love with a handsome prince, she strikes a deal with a sea witch named Ursula to become human in exchange for her voice. The story deals with themes of alienation, unrequited love, manipulation, and freedom.

Iris says she grew up watching the Walt Disney cartoon version of he story and immediately jumped at the opportunity to audition.

“I loved the movie growing up,” Iris says. “My mom is obsessed with Ursula, so we watched it constantly.”

In a fairytale about a girl trying to find her voice, Ursula’s an interesting character. The villain’s big, and voluptuous, and comfortable in her own skin.

“She’s powerful in her own way,” Iris says. “She’s a woman and she’s powerful and she flaunts it. I love that about her.”

Iris says the Broadway version is very much like the Disney retelling that most audience members are familiar with but the musical production has additional songs and characters.

“I took vocal lessons from the show’s director, Erica Peterson, before COVID,” Iris says. “When she told me about her plan to put on the play, I immediately knew I wanted to audition.”

The voice lessons helped Iris – a singer who is most comfortable in the lower end of the vocal range – feel more comfortable singing as a female tenor. She says she now understands how to carry a note and use breath work to improve her range.

“I grew up thinking girls had to sing super high, like Mariah Carey. I’ve always sung really low. I’m singing tenor in this show and vocal lessons helped me to be comfortable with that,” she says.

Iris says she hopes to use her musical roles as a stepping stone towards a performing arts career.

“I love to sing. I grew up singing in church and it kind of developed from there. I just wanted to get better so I can get lead roles and maybe move on to community theater and beyond,” Iris says. “I want to spent the rest of my life around musical theater. I don’t necessarily want to perform but the industry, things like the (Tennessee Performing Arts Center) TPAC, interest me a lot.”

Iris will play a chef and also be in the ensemble. The ensemble role allows her more stage time as a fish and as greenery. It’s the Moore County High School sophomore’s second SJCC performance. In 2019, she performed in Annie. She’s also a member of the MCHS Theater Club and a varsity cheerleader.

Performances take place on Friday and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and there will be a matinee at 2 p.m. each Sunday.

Iris is the daughter of Jason and Jana Brown of Lynchburg. He works at Jack Daniel’s Distillery and she works at Moore County High School. They live in the Pleasant Hill community in east Moore County. •

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