‘The Little Mermaid Live!’ changes up live-musical format



Auli’i Carvalho was among the celebrities recruited to bring the classic Disney animation to life on stage.

Brian Connors, Arts & Entertainment Editor

ABC has entered the live-television musical game with its broadcast of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” on Nov. 5. “The Little Mermaid Live!” broke the mold of prime time’s standard live musical format. Rather than perform the whole musical live, the broadcast was a combination between the original animated film and live musical performances. The movie played normally but before every musical number, the screen would cut to the “Disney Dive-In Theatre” for the live performances.

“The Little Mermaid Live!” is hard to review. It had a lot of positive aspects yet an equal amount of negative ones. I enjoyed watching it but that does not mean I would say it was good. The show was all over the place, but let’s start with the positives.

Queen Latifah and John Stamos were the cast MVPs as the sea witch, Ursula, and the crab-obsessed Chef Louis, respectively. Latifah played Ursula perfectly, plus she looked and sounded fantastic! “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was the standout performance of the night. Stamos was high energy and fun for his performance of “Les Poissons.” Despite forgetting the name of the film’s prince, Stamos did a fantastic job.

The costumes and staging have to be admired as well. The creative team did a great job of bringing the sea creatures to life on stage in clever ways. It was also very enjoyable to watch the 1989 original. It was an interesting concept, but I believe it only worked because it was “The Little Mermaid.”

Amber Riley sang “Daughters of Triton,” which was a fun way to spice up one of the film’s often forgotten tracks. Riley’s voice is amazing and she certainly did the song justice.

Prince Eric is given more to do than in the original animation. The prince sang three songs: “Fathoms Below,” “Her Voice” and “If Only.” “Her Voice” and “If Only” both hail from the Broadway musical and were a solid addition to the overall performance.

As for the negatives, “Part of Your World” was a real letdown. Auli’i Cravalho must have been off her game or something because, honey, that iconic last note was a big yikes! We know from the Disney hit “Moana” that Cravalho can sing but she sounded very flat the night of “The Little Mermaid Live!”. The whole performance was just cringe worthy.

Shaggy’s performance of the musically inclined crab Sebastian was also nothing to write home about. The singer seemed as if he either did not want to be there or had absolutely no clue what he had signed up for. His costume was the most simplistic in the whole cast; he simply wore a metallic red shirt and pants.

Another negative was the editing. The special was split between the live performances and the movie. The movie, however, was cut up in order to better fit a narrative that included the two songs from the Broadway show. The editing was sloppy and weird and was certainly noticeable to Disney super fans.

“The Little Mermaid Live!” tried to switch up the live musical format with mixed results. I would not label it a success but it was an entertaining two hours of television.