Up in Cranberry and Under the Sea – A Review of The Little Mermaid


By: Joseph Szalinski

Bust out the wet floor signs, because Disney’s The Little Mermaid is currently running at Comtra Theatre. Directors Brandon Keller and Dylan Baughman bring their version of the adapted classic to Cranberry, PA.

Fans of the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale should expect lighter fare than his narrative, as this production is inspired by the animated musical from the 90s. Whether you’re a “Disney Adult” who’s feeling nostalgic, or you’re looking for a family-friendly outing that’s enjoyable for audience members of any age, this show is for you.

For those unfamiliar, the story follows Ariel, a mermaid, and the favorite daughter of Triton, the sea king. Feeling limited by the ocean(s), which cover most of the earth’s surface, she decides to check out what’s going on above. Usually, she finds odd items to include in her museum of recycling, but this time she finds a body that washed ashore! However, the body is still alive, and he’s a prince! After his rescue, he vows to find his savior with a beautiful voice.

Desperate to fall in love on land, Ariel makes a deal with her aunt Ursula, a sea witch with a penchant for all things devious and an army of eels and trades her voice for legs and the ability to breathe out of the water. She must race against the clock before three days are up, get a kiss from Prince Eric, or be Ursula’s mute slave for the rest of her life.

Turning a cartoon, let alone one that is a fairytale/fantasy, into a stage play calls for innovative ideas to facilitate the switch in medium. Luckily, Disney adapted their work, but this show’s crew pulls off some neat stuff. The space, though small and surrounded by seats, is decorated in nautically inspired accouterment; movement of set pieces is superfluid, despite physical limitations; props and costumes are interestingly done; and lighting and sound are good. The standout scenes in that regard are the ones that take place in Ursula’s lair. The look and feel are eerily established, and the writhing sea creatures make it feel extra creepy.

Ursula (Kristin Pacelli) poses with fans from the audience.

Kristin Pacelli is marvelous as Ursula. She distinguished herself from her cartoon counterpart between menacing energy and incredible singing. Her eel cronies, Flotsam (Mary Narvett) and Jetsam (Grace Fritsch) complement her nicely, or, I guess, meanly. The way those two move around is awesomely unsettling.

Ariel (Anna Chensny) and Prince Eric (Ian C. Olson) were cast wonderfully as well. Apart, they have great scenes, but it’s when they’re together that they shine. Their dancing scene demonstrates their chemistry.

Comic relief is always a great addition to family-friendly musicals/stage shows, and this one has plenty. While the Disney references and fish jokes got annoying, these characters buoyed the humor with their performances. Scuttle (Palmer Masciola IV) is a goofy gull who helps add extra levity to the story. Taylor Anderson and Sam Carter are Ariel’s entrusted companions, Sebastian, and Flounder, respectively. The former is exceptionally funny when fleeing the clutches of the crazed Chef Louis (Patrick Daniel). Louis is a fun character and Patrick noticeably relishes portraying him.

A musical wouldn’t be a musical without, well, music, and while the singing and dancing is impressive from everyone, it’s the live music courtesy of George Milosh, Celeste Callahan, Chris Petricca, Aldo Diiani, Kamran Mian, and Zach Spondike that really elevates the production.

Live entertainment is special for many reasons, and one of the biggest reasons is how the audience enjoys the show. Hearing audience members of all ages, from the super young to the elderly, singing along to their treasured songs, is nice. Even if the show isn’t your thing, it’s great seeing those who enjoy it, enjoy it as much as they do, and potentially witness an instance where future thespians are inspired to bring stories to life too.

– JS

“The Little Mermaid” runs until August 13 at Comtra Theatre, 20540 Route 19, Cranberry, PA 16066. For more information, click here


2 Replies to “Up in Cranberry and Under the Sea – A Review of The Little Mermaid”

  1. Mary narvett is the true actress. A pro at such an early age. Any writer or reviewer who does not see that needs to sharpen up his act.. Mary is not a backup. Mary is the star…

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