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Choir students at California Middle School will take the community on a trip under the sea through their production of "The Little Mermaid Jr."

There to make California part of her world is eighth-grader Alayna Butts, who will portray Ariel, the beloved daughter of King Triton.

"This is my third musical but first time playing the lead role," Butts said. "I'm pretty excited and nervous all at the same time. But I know I'm going to be more focused this time."

Every attempt to keep the wanderlust mermaid in line is made by Sebastian the crab, better known as fellow eighth-grader Kate Freiner.

"I've been in two musicals before, but I never had a role until now," Freiner said. "It's definitely an adjustment."

One cast member feels right at home in her role, leaving little room for adjustment. That would be Grace Potter, who will play Ursula.

"I've played mostly villain roles in musicals," Potter said. "Last year in "Annie," I tried to kidnap her and the other orphans. I think I like to be a villain because it's easier for me to play mean than angelic."

The sea creatures may answer to King Triton, or D.J. Schneider, but when on stage the students are under the direction of CMS choir director Erika DeMoss. DeMoss said the weather has been an interesting impediment to scheduling rehearsals, but the students are learning to adjust.

"The middle school kids turn it on, and it all comes out great," DeMoss said. "There are 92 kids in this musical with 25 of them working backstage. They're all great kids, and I wouldn't trade them for the world."

All members of the production have watched Broadway shows in preparation for their March 9 debut at the California Performing Arts Center.

"They're all super stoked," DeMoss added.

The CMS production of "The Little Mermaid Jr." will be performed at 7 p.m. March 9 and 2 p.m. March 10 at the California Performing Arts Center. All creatures, marine or human, are invited.

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