Chambersburg Ballet Theatre goes 'under the sea' with 'Little Mermaid' production

June 12, 2013|By KAREN MAWDSLEY |
  • In the Chambersburg Ballet Theatre production of "The Little Mermaid," Marina Addlesberger, top right, dances the title role and Peter Doll, below right, dances the role of the Prince. CBT students perform as seahorses, starfish and other characters.
Submitted photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- — Lavinia Reid is taking the classic tale “The Little Mermaid” to new heights — or depths — in her innovative ballet adaptation of the beloved under-the-sea tale.

Reid said she sees the production as a way to marry the whimsical Disney film version to the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen original fairy tale, which ends with the Little Mermaid desperately throwing herself into the sea after the prince she’s in love with marries the princess. Reid’s rendition, however, ends with the prince marrying the Little Mermaid. 

“We bring the real story, the full story, but give it a happy ending,” Reid said Friday. “It really makes sense.”

That happy ending comes to The Capitol Theatre for two shows on Saturday, June 15, in Chambersburg Ballet Theatre’s final performance of the 2012-13 season. 

Reid, a dancer at heart, said at one point in her life she “practiced violin for five hours a day and did ballet for another five hours.” 


She founded Chambersburg Ballet Theatre in 1999 and serves as the company’s artistic director. She has served as a guest choreographer with many companies, including the Washington (D.C.) Ballet.

Composing and choreographing “The Little Mermaid” has been an invaluable experience in melding together her musical and ballet backgrounds, Reid said. It incorporates styles from ballet to jazz to modern, which are layered over intricate time signatures, she said.

The ballet features Reid’s original choreography, costumes, sets and music. The score was arranged by musical director and Shippensburg University music professor Dennis Ritz, who added percussion elements to the two-piano soundtrack. The music, which is prerecorded, has a variety of sound effects, such as recordings of thunder and bird calls.  

Since the project’s inception in 2010, it has progressed rapidly. The first act was performed that year, and the completed two-act ballet was performed in its entirety at Chambersburg’s IceFest in January 2011. 

More recently, the Ithaca (N.Y.) Ballet, where Reid’s sister, Cindy Reid, serves as artistic director, staged the ballet in May, and Lavinia Reid was featured in an National Public Radio interview in New York. The ballet comes full circle as it returns to Reid’s hometown of Chambersburg, performed by her own company.

“It’s the crowning achievement of this company,” Reid said.

Fifty dancers ranging from 4-year-olds to professionals will take The Capitol Theatre stage in handmade costumes colored with blacklight pigments to create a glow-in-the-dark experience in the dimly lighted theater. This allows for interesting special effects including a luminescent underwater garden and fireworks.

The Chambersburg Ballet Theatre debuts its budding young 4- and 5-year-old dancers as starfish. According to a news release, they will perform alongside dancers from the CBT company as well as professional dancers from the Suzanne Farrell Ballet Company, based in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“I love to bring in professional dancers so the young ones can be on stage with the professionals and learn from them,” Reid said.

Reid’s 27-year-old son, Peter Doll, co-stars as the prince and works as an instructor for the ballet school. They said they have seen tremendous growth in the dancers since they began rehearsing in late February. 

In particular, Doll highlighted Marina Addlesberger, 17, who plays the Little Mermaid. 

“(She) has really matured into the role,” he said. 

The production didn’t come without its difficulties for Lavinia Reid, according to her son.

“She’ll be working, sometimes pulling all-nighters,” Doll said. “It’s a very intense process, and she’s certainly very creative.”

If you go ...        

WHAT: Chambersburg Ballet Theatre performs “The Little Mermaid” 

WHEN: Saturday, June 15, at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. 

WHERE: The Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St., downtown Chambersburg, Pa. 

COST: Tickets cost $13 for adults, $8 for students and $3 for children ages 3 to 5, with additional service fees. 

CONTACT: The Capitol Theatre Box Office at or by phone at 717-263-0202.

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