Westfield High School graduate embraces Ariel role


Anya Burke knew immediately what role she wanted to play.

“I love Disney princesses. I grew up watching Disney movies all the time,” Burke said. “When I found out they were doing ‘Little Mermaid,’ I was, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to try for this.’”

Burke will perform in the lead role of Ariel in Grace Church’s production of “The Little Mermaid” from Feb. 25 to March 6 at Grace Church, 5504 E. 146th St., Noblesville.

ND GRACE CHURCH MUSICAL 0222 Burke head shot

“Ariel has just been a ton of fun,” Burke said. “She is very challenging in a lot of different ways, acting and singing wise. It’s been a push for me, which has been a great learning experience. Ariel is just such a fun character. She is quirky and naive but sweet and loving and innocent. It’s fun to be able to play that in different ways.’

Burke, a 2020 Westfield High School graduate and an Anderson University sophomore musical theater major, has worked on her vocal ranges.

“I played Elsa a few years ago (in ‘Frozen’) but that was the first Disney princess role I played,” Burke said. “But (Elsa) is serious. This is the first time I played a Disney princess that is fun.”

Burke said people have asked how she is going to play a character that hates her family and wants to be selfish.

“Even before she met Prince Eric, there is a whole storyline before, where she doesn’t feel like she belongs in the ocean,” Burke said. “She feels she belongs in a different place. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that aspect. She wants to be free. I’m trying to portray that aspect and not just chasing after a boy.”

Burke started acting in Christian Youth Theater in fifth grade. She performed in “Les Miserables” at Grace Church in 2014.

“I’ve done every musical they’ve done since then,” she said.

Burke has performed with several other theater groups, including Carmel Community Players, Westfield Playhouse and The Belfry Theatre.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke said she has mostly performed in film at Anderson University.

“It’s been a great learning experience, but you miss that connection with the audience,” she said. “I’m excited to get that again with this.”

Amy Christie, Grace’s pastor of community life, is directing the musical.

“Our purpose of doing it is to spread joy to the community and allow them a theatrical experience at a really affordable price,” Christie said.

The cast includes performers of all ages. The script doesn’t call for children’s choir, but Christie added one for ages 8 to 12.

“The main reason is the bond that forms between them and the adults and teenagers is this beautiful inter-generational community,” Christie said. “It’s hard to build those relationships, but when you are all working on the same thing together, you have a common goal.”

Tickets are $15. For more, visit gracechurch.us.