Finding love can happen when you least expect those feelings to hit.

Never mind that she is a mermaid and he a young man fit to be king.

But it’s a chance meeting and wanting a different experience in life that makes this a story so believable — even if it takes place in a sea of family problems.

Later this week something truly special is about to happen when the lights go down and a magical underwater world comes to life.

But what may even be more special is for the first time in more than a year, a crowd will get to lose themselves in a world of old friends.

On Thursday, Fort Atkinson High School students will bring the musical “The Little Mermaid” to the stage.

And while this story is one that Disney made into a hit on the movie screen, it’s also a story of a young person’s journey that everyone can see themselves in.

“Despite the magic, it’s a real storyline that applies to people’s own lives,” said Kiah Snow, who is directing the musical adaptation of the film.

Some of the cast who are now seniors have not been able to be in a production since their sophomore year. But the show is one not only for the students, who have come out in larger numbers to participate in this year’s production, but also for local families who are eager to see live theater once again.

“The biggest thing I hope people take away is that they suspend their belief for two and a half hours in this. We all need a little escapism and be part of that,” Snow said.

“The Little Mermaid” tells the story of Ariel, played by Abbey Hoffman, who lives in the sea with her father King Triton, played by Cole McDonald, who forbids contact with people on land. Ariel spends time near the surface wondering what life is like for humans. One day she sees Prince Eric, played by Jackson Sitkiewitz, who is about to become king.

His ship is hit by a storm and he is thrown overboard and rescued by Ariel. She falls for the prince and he wants to find the girl who saved his life.

Ariel decides to run away. She soon makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula, her father’s sister. Ursula promises to make her a human for three days, during which she must obtain a kiss of true love from Eric.

The musical is based on the movie and first came to the stage in 2007.

Snow said one of the challenges of taking on “The Little Mermaid” is not only capturing a story that everyone knows, but making the world in which Ariel lives come to life.

“Bringing a cartoon to life is daunting,” Snow said. “How do we create an underwater atmosphere while we are still on dry land?”

This is Snow’s first production at Fort High School, where she wanted to pick a light-hearted story for the cast’s first production back.

She said seeing the joy on students’ faces as they get to do a musical again has been something she has enjoyed the most.

“Not only have our students not been in a production in a long time, but the community also has not,” Snow said.

And a musical that offers a message.

“I think this show offers a lot of great stuff for students,” Snow said. “We see Ariel finding her place in the world. And having Ariel as that big role model is inspiring.”

The musical gives the main characters plenty of background and also showcases the voice of Hoffman in songs like “Part of Your World” and “One Dance.”

“She lives and breathes musicals,” Snow said of the senior.

Hoffman captures Ariel while bringing the iconic character to the stage, allowing audiences to be part of the journey.

Sitkiewitz, in the role of Eric, is in his first production, while Kyra Johnson is getting another chance at playing the infamous Ursula, a character she played in a junior version.

Johnson shows off her vocal range while capturing a character that has becoming bigger than life — with Ursula now having her own movie.

With her first production here, Snow said she also is learning a lot from students and likes the challenge the show presents.

“Letting the students make the role into their own and combine that with their experiences,” she said.

The story of Ariel and Eric is one that has audiences coming back for more, weather at the movies or on stage.

It’s a simple story of boy meets girl — never mind that she lives in the water with her trident-wielding father and his manipulative sister who has a magic shell.

It’s really a story about overcoming — if you want to be with the one you love.

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