EAST PEORIA - Olivia Coombs, 18, can't wait to play her new role as Ariel, the adventurous daughter in Disney's the Little Mermaid.
"For one thing she's a Disney character and she's a mermaid," she laughed.
It's also the lead role in this year's Penguin Project, a play showcasing the amazing talents of children with disabilities. For four months, nearly 90 disabled actors and actresses have perfected their lines and songs.
Wednesday the cast rehearsed for opening weekend, set to kick off this Friday night.
Program director Dr. Andy Morgan says the play helps children like Olivia, who has autism, find a real life supporting cast.
"The one thing that we notice more than anything else is that a lot of these children are isolated. They don't have friends. They don't have social networks. And the most important thing this does is provide the opportunity for these children," said Morgan.
It also brings out something new.
"I never really danced a lot that much and I sing in the bath tub," she said.
Now she's front and center on the stage which is a breathtaking transformation for people who know her best.
"My wife and I looked at each other because we had never heard her sing, ever. And that was two years ago, and now she's a got a lead in the musical," said Bill Coombs, Olivia's father.
But now, this once shy girl can't keep the songs to herself.
The play opens Friday, January 18 at 7:30 am in the Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria. For all show times and to buy tickets call 309-699-7469.