Portsmouth student takes to stage for senior project

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PORTSMOUTH — With the show only three days away, Mary Lehane wanted to get everything just right.

"Claudia, you look fierce!" the 17-year-old high school senior told a young actor on the stage of the middle school Little Theater Monday. "But you need to project more."

Mary's been running back and forth between PHS and the middle school since Dec. 2, when rehearsals for "The Little Mermaid Jr." first got underway. She's not only the musical director for the show, which will be performed Thursday and Friday, she's also starring in an upcoming production of "The Sound of Music" at PHS. She'll be playing Liesl, the oldest of the von Trapp daughters, in the production that runs April 4 to 6.

But there's more riding, academically speaking, on the "Mermaid" musical. Mary's work on the production is her senior project, which is required of all grade 12 students. Middle school teacher Mary Taft, the musical's stage director, said Mary "has done an amazing job."

Mary said when students select a senior project, it must be something that's out of their comfort zone.

"I've been in plays my whole life, but I've never directed. I did all the songs with the kids," said Mary, who would play the piano as she practiced songs with the children — another stretch for her.

"I didn't play the piano before this," said Mary, who started taking lessons at PHS only this year.

The group of 46 students, ages 11 to 14, have been meeting for about two hours twice a week since early December. Among those in the production is Mary's younger sister Kerry, who plays Ariel. Both girls, along with the youngest sister Meghan, are also talented Irish step-dancers.

"They are quite a group of gifted young ladies," said Ms. Taft.

After she graduates, Mary plans on studying business at either Stonehill College or Fairfield University, and may also pursue arts or dance.

Her senior project, she said, has been a memorable experience because of the time she's spent learning about directing from Ms. Taft — and the young thespians, of course.

"Honestly, I can't believe how talented they area," she said. "I'm lucky to get such a great group like this."

"The Little Mermaid Jr." will be performed at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 14 and 15, at the middle school. Admission is $5.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.