Production of ‘A Little Mermaid’ Hits Some Rough Seas in Burbank


Sensitive writing, inadvertent comedy, varying performance levels, graceful and awkward movement--Serendipity Theatre Co.’s staging of “A Little Mermaid” at the Burbank Little Theater is uneven to be sure, and a little more polish would go a long way toward making this thoughtful production something special.

As adapter-director Denys Gawronski notes in the program, this is not the cheery Disney version of “Mermaid.” Although it contains some intentional comedy, the play admirably adheres more closely to the Hans Christian Andersen classic, with its themes of sacrifice and sorrow.

This course leads to some unexpectedly lovely scenes--one with indispensable adult company member Sarah Lilly in motherly colloquy with her mermaid daughter, Pearl (Maura Murphy Barrosse). Lilly does a standout job with a bittersweet reminiscence about her doomed girlhood love for a human boy.


Barrosse rises to the occasion, too, in a tricky scene for a youth actor in which Pearl falls in love with the drowning prince (handsome Marcus Gualberto), clasping him to her and marveling at his beauty.

It could have been wince-making, but excellent writing and Barrosse’s substantive reading make it a standout moment.

The other highlight is Lilly’s other role as the hissing, slithering Sea Witch who persuades Pearl to sacrifice her voice and her life for a chance at human love.

As the prince’s advisor Yorick, Michael Heatherton, the only other adult cast member, is at his best when allowed to give rein to his comic impulses; as Pearl’s father, the Sea King, Heatherton’s uncertainty with lines works against the character’s dignity--as did his accidental, thudding exit following a tender father-daughter scene at last Sunday’s performance.

Youth actors Ashley Hendra and Malaika Latimer are word-perfect but not dimensional and Denise Anderson’s “mer”-people costumes, with flipper feet, don’t help.

Lilly fares best in her glittering, footless Sea Witch black, but flippers give the other actors a limited penguin gait, interrupting the play’s rhythm with labored, noisy and sometimes comic exits and entrances.


Young ensemble member Nicolas Cowan does a nice job with the simple ocean/wharf set and his evocative lights are excellent.

* Burbank Little Theatre, George Izay Park, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank, Sat., 1 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 4 p.m. Through May 4. $8 (ages 17 and under) and $14. (818) 557-0505.