The Little Mermaid Live! made a splash on ABC. Full of color and life, this special turned the animated hit into a theatrical blockbuster all its own. The cast was full of well-known names, with Queen Latifah and John Stamos being just two of the celebrities to appear. It was led Auli’i Cravalho that carried the night as the signature Disney princess.
Jodi Benson Made an Appearance
The show opened with Josi Benson doing the introduction. Auli’i Cravalho was already anticipating the appearance of the actress on the show. She spoke to People before the big night to reveal that the woman behind Ariel’s famous voice had been incredibly supportive, even before Cravalho was selected for the role. “She’s kind of like a fairy godmother in a way, because she’s known these characters for so long and she’s always there to give a little bit of advice,” Cravalho said of Benson.
The Production Revealed A Blend of Animation and Live Musical Performances
The show’s first song, “Fathom’s Below”, put the animated transition to good use when the full stage was exposed with a chorus of singers. it also gave viewers their first look at Prince Eric. Animated versus real-life performances were an ingenious way to combine the familiar with new components.
“Part of Your World” Was Successful, While “Under The Sea” Missed Its Potential
Daughters of King Triton offered a bright and beautiful performance led by Amber Reilly. Of course, Ariel was nowhere to be found and the mermaid has a song of her own to sing. Several scenes later, the animation stopped long enough to reveal Cravalho in her starring role. “Part of Your World” is a Disney favorite that transcends the movie. In a song that could have been overplayed, the set design along with Cravalho’s vocals kept the song’s emotional tone. As she flew over the audience in a swimming motion, viewers couldn’t help but be swept up in the story. Cravalho would return to reprise “Part of Your World” with two acrobatic stand-ins playing out their own air ballet.
“Under the Sea” is another classic Disney song that comes from The Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, the presentation became one of the biggest letdowns. It was hard to hear Shaggy’s microphone during the song. Camera angles along with a full stage also created a more chaotic environment than the original musical number. The costumes also seemed hurried and Shaggy’s outfit appeared out of place for the character.
Queen Latifah Showed Everyone How It Is Done with “Poor, Unfortunate Souls”
Queen Latifah showed her ability to play the villain as she took the stage for “Poor, Unfortunate Souls”. Latifah was more than ready to take on the villainous Ursula. “No one is like Ursula … She has sexiness. She is duplicitous … she’s charming when she wants to be,” she told Good Morning America. The multi-hyphenate made the role her own with a mix of whimsy and fright that children of all ages could enjoy. Her vocals were pitch-perfect as the song became one of the night’s best moments. She would reprise it later in the show and it was a crowd-pleaser once again.
“Les Poissons” Proved to Be a Fun Diversion
A quick ballad by Prince Eric was nice enough but doesn’t really transition into the story. Most viewers seemed to have passed it by as they waited for the next memorable song. “Les Poissons” is not a beloved choice, yet it does come from the original film soundtrack. To acknowledge its lack of popularity, the producers picked John Stamos as Chef Louis. His delivery made this a fun segment, even if the microphone volume was problematic once again.
A Subtle “Kiss the Girl” Was Nice Enough
“Kiss the Girl” stands out as one of fans’ favorite songs from the film. Shaggy returned and this time his microphone issues appear to have been fixed. His costumed still seemed out of place, especially considering crustaceans in the “Les Poissons” segment. The production was low-key for the segment, which actually helped the aesthetic. Prince Eric and Ariel would return with a special duet that once again detoured from the original material.
The show ended with a grand finale that brought the night to an end. It put a cap on a fairly successful experiment to see how live theatrical performances can be blended with existing material. This is only a temporary end to the story though as the studio plans a live-action film based on the material.