Under the sea with Musical Theatre Club’s 24 hour musical


Hannah Heisler | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt’s Musical Theater Club performs “Under the Sea” as a part of its 24 hour production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Saturday evening at Stephen Foster Memorial Theater.

By Siddhi Shockey, Staff Writer

As the lights dimmed, the melodies of “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea” filled the theater and the audience applauded in excitement. Ariel, played by Heather Royer, took her position at center stage, and the crowd laughed as she danced like a caricature of a ditzy Disney Princess.

This excitement resulted from a production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” hosted by Pitt’s Musical Theatre Club (MTC) in the Stephen Foster Memorial Theater this past Saturday. The club hosts an annual 24-hour musical, and this year’s production put a comedic take on the Disney classic.

The production was a collaboration across Pitt’s musical theater groups — including Pitt Performance Collaborative, MTC, Redeye Theater Project and the United States Institute of Theater Technology. With only 24 hours to cast, direct, choreograph and design a set for the full two-and-a-half-hour production, the cast and crew attempted to throw together a hilariously imperfect musical.

Many of the sets and props were thrown together from household objects and construction paper, while the costumes were predominantly clothes the cast already owned. Juliana Pillets, a senior communication major and president of MTC, said she was proud of the work they were able to put together in just 24 hours.

“It was tough to create an ocean and land in 24 hours with just construction paper, like we didn’t spend any money on the entire thing,” Pillets said. “So, Ursula’s tentacles were made from trash bags … it was a matter of being creative to get over those hurdles.”

In the show’s opening scene, Ariel watched as Prince Eric, played by Josh Wiener, sailed along in a boat constructed of a piece of brown construction paper labeled “Boaty McBoatFace.” Royer’s portrayal of the classic, clueless Disney Princess drew laughs from the audience as she called an oversized tinfoil fork a dinglehopper.

Senior Dustin Butoryak’s direction, which was done on a tight schedule, allowed the cast to put a comedic twist on their roles. Whenever Triton, played by Luke Shaffer, became upset about losing Ariel, two of his guards would sensually massage him until he shooed them away. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s famous Jamacian accent was swapped out for a Fran Drescher impersonation.

The audience would roar with laughter each time Flounder tried to flirt with Ariel, despite her oblivious attitude toward his advances. These moments — spontaneous or directed — sent the audience into fits of laughter. The production even featured pop culture references with dances like the shoot, hitting the whoa and the “Why you so obsessed with me” TikTok dance.

Vaishnavi Guddeti, a junior neuroscience major, felt that references like these dances — which have become memes and viral videos due to their odd styles and funny context — added an unexpected element to the show.

“I really liked the pop culture references like when Sebastian dabbed,” Guddeti said. “The inclusion of them in this play made it more enjoyable for the college audience.”

Although the acting overall wasn’t as clean as a traditional production, it fit the expectations for a show that was put together in 24 hours. Despite the quick turnaround, the production featured a talented cast of both minor characters and leads.

Ursula, played by Kayla Bradley, stole the show with her powerful voice and sultry attitude. She played up the dark and humorous side of Ursula in her song “I Want the Good Times Back.” Bradley also took the liberty of sprinkling in a few comedic moments herself. After her death in the final scene, she kept laying on the ground singing through the final number as the rest of the cast serenaded newlyweds Ariel and Eric.

Even minor characters like Scuttle, Ariel’s sisters and the head chef in Eric’s palace all had their featured moments. The actors parodied these classic roles, diving into the comical essence of the catty sisters or the ostentatious French chef.

In one scene, as the head chef runs through a list of his favorite seafood dishes, the audience couldn’t hold in their laughter at his ridiculous French accent. When Ariel’s sisters hung out in their “girl cave,” they embodied the classic caricature of bratty siblings fighting for Triton’s attention. It was moments such as these that Ashley Bufano, a junior natural science major, enjoyed most about the show.

“I thought the cast did an amazing job of making sure the audience was having a good time while they were still having a great time,” Bufano said. “And it’s crazy that they put it on in 24 hours.”

Pillets said it was a lot of pressure for the cast and crew alike, but she also confessed how much fun the organization had with the 24 hour production. When the ensemble or a lead character missed a line or note, the performers simply laughed it off — and the audience did with them.

“Something to take away from live theater like this is that you can’t control the situation that you’re in, you can only control how you react to it,” Pillets said. “And sometimes the best that you can do is just laugh and have a good time.”