Ariel has always been my favorite Disney Princess. As a child, I used to dream of having bright red hair and a flounder for a best friend. I even called all of the lobsters in the grocery store ‘Sebastian’ until I was 15. I’ve listened to the entire Broadway soundtrack, seen every spin off of the original movie I can find, and still pretend to be Ariel every time I get in the pool. While I may not be the able to claim the title of ‘biggest Ariel fan,’ I certainly am a huge one. When I heard that Disney and ABC would be staging a semi-live performance of the original movie, mashed with live action performances and new songs from the Broadway production, I was ecstatic!
“…beautiful artistry and storytelling that truly yields a masterful performance.”
We’re all familiar with the little mermaid who dreams of a life far beyond the ocean’s surface, following her gentle heart until it brings her to the love of her life and a choice that will ultimately change her life. But “The Little Mermaid Live!” manages to hold true to the original story while still adding another layer of beautiful artistry and storytelling that truly yields a masterful performance. Your toes will be tapping as familiar tunes such as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. The performance opens with the beginning of the movie, and cuts quickly to the live action staging of sailors aboard Prince Eric’s boat, singing about “Mysterious Fathoms Below.” From then on, the show dives in and out of the original film, featuring the original songs by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, along with some new ones from the Broadway show with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.
I am always amazed at the versatility of actors and actresses, and this show reveals the incredible talents of Auli’i Cravahlo, Queen Latifah, and Graham Phillips. After having seen Queen Latifah’s work in “The Wiz: Live,” I was really intrigued to see her performance as Ursula. She definitely nailed the nasty, evil personification of the movie’s Sea Witch while adding her own flair and fun to the character. Auli’i Cravahlo certainly amazed me with the versatility of her voice, moving from the powerful and determined performance she provided as Moana in the Disney movie to the light, dreamy character of young Ariel. Her vocal tones blended brilliantly with Graham Phillips’ performance as Eric. He not only fit the character’s look, but dazzled the audience with his gentle vibrato and charming voice.
The set was eye catching, nearly overwhelmingly so. Every staging was uniquely presented. The designers’ use of that stage and choice of colors really captivated my attention equally as much as the actors did. Floating jellyfish, flying crustaceans, flipping mermaids, and terrifying tentacles – I could not tear my eyes away from each piece! Kudos to all who put in the work required to bring this set to life.
Costumes were bright and larger than life. All of the sea creatures were simply beautiful, and I loved the detail given to each mermaid’s outfit. The familiar ensembles for Ariel and Eric were clean cut, simple, and still eye catching. I especially loved the floating jellyfish with performers dangling from them – the psychedelic colors incorporated were vibrant and fun. The coordination between lighting design and costuming was great – the light really accented each costuming choice, and vice versa!
A few ensemble members deserve recognition for their incredible performances. The children in the cast, portraying various sea creatures, were simply charming! Watching the energy of the supporting cast really bring this show to life was amazing, especially in the detailed characterizations they provided. I really enjoyed the rendition of “Daughters of Triton”, where a variety of ethnicities, body types, and personalities were rendered on stage. How I have longed to see such diversity captured – it truly represents the beauty of our nation. Perhaps my favorite part of the performance was watching the audience get involved – how fun! Great job to all of the cast (audience members included) who brought this well-loved story to life, and to Director Hamish Hamilton for his careful casting, detailed direction, and overall vision.
I especially enjoyed the use of puppetry in this rendition of “The Little Mermaid.” When Flounder (the puppet) first appeared, I was worried that the show would resemble a live action Muppets performance, but I found that the puppets added the perfect amount of whimsical without taking over the show. Each of the puppets were made with great care, and I truly enjoyed the inclusion of them in the production, particularly during the live action performance of “Under the Sea.”
Finally, a Disney/ABC live production I want to watch again and again! The combination of live performances and clips from the movie took time to grow accustomed to, but the timing and choice of clip/song connections were perfect! My only critique would be that they cut out pieces of the movie to fit with the live show, but everything fit together well as a complete story regardless. This mashup of new and old is the perfect performance for the whole family to watch together, and I recommend it to Little Mermaid fans old and young!
Running Time: 2 hrs with commercial breaks.
“The Little Mermaid Live!” was featured on ABC 7 the evening of November 5, 2019. For more information, please click here.