Soft Shell: The Little Mermaid Live!

Updated: Oct 19, 2020


It was only a matter of time until Disney went on the live musical bandwagon. I remember saying years ago when this fad started saying “Do you ever think Disney will do a live one?” Well here we are years later. The live musical fad is just getting more extravagant. Disney keep rolling with live action remakes. Why not make one live!


I have seen every live musical that has been produced starting with “The Sound of Music” in 2013. I liked it. I thought it was fun. Was Carrie Underwood the best Maria, no. But dammit she was committed. That show pulled in high ratings. Since then a somewhat yearly tradition of live musicals to television was reborn. Using Sound of Music as a blueprint, some have been better. Some have been much worse. Some have try to change the dynamic. Others played it safe. All of which I have enjoyed.


So here we are at “The Little Mermaid Live!”. ABC/Disney’s take on the live musical. It was promoted as “hybrid performance”. As in half live and half the 1989 film. The live broadcast also coincided with the 30th anniversary of the film and the release of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+. This production was also based on the recent performance at the Hollywood bowl. Where the actors would sing at the the appropriate times in the movie. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. What I was afraid of was Queen Latifah in full Ursula drag with the movie just playing behind her.


So on to the night of November 5. After an intro from OG Ariel, Jodi Benson, the movie begins. Yes I said that right, the movie. Only to cut back to a soundstage at Walt Disney Studios where the musical numbers were performed. The opening number “Fathoms Below” with Prince Eric (played by Graham Phillips) and the sailors I thought was excellent. I thought I was in for a good night. Everyone was costumed. There was even a set. The studio audience was a little loud. But there reaction was exactly mine, ecstatic!


Shortly after however it goes back to the movie. This is when I soon realize that this is how the evening is going to go. Back and forth and back and forth. It seems like they tried to make it seamless. But I can tell the difference between an animated film and a puppet.


Now let’s get to what I liked. Everything that actually was live. It was good for the most part. You can tell some money was spent on the set and costumes for this. It was colorful and imaginative. Using aerialists as jelly fish, amazing. It makes me think that should have just done a live version of the 2008 broadway show. They even used two songs from that production and I think it worked perfectly. A lot of time went into this and you can tell. But as soon as you were enjoying the live aspect. Boom we’re back in the movie.


Two other aspects I liked were Shaggy as Sebastian the crab. You can tell he was having a ball up there. He was feeding off of the energy of the crowd. His “under the sea” was fun and “kiss the girl” was so cute. It would have been fun to see what he would have done with the dialogue.


The saving grace to this whole thing was Queen Latifah as Ursula the Sea Witch. No stranger to the live musical format or being able to work a crowd. She stole the show in the two numbers she had. Again if only she had the dialogue to play with. Or better yet if they let her come back out as Ursula’s alter ego, Vanessa. Never the less she won the night for me.


The rest of the performers were okay. Shout out to Auliʻi Cravalho as Ariel who did a fine job. You gotta give it to someone who’s singing while wearing a fin and swinging on a harness.


So if you want my opinion.....”The Little Mermaid Live!” Had all the potential to be a fun live tv musical. The movie just got in the way. There needed to be a focus on one thing. It’s a shame because a lot of talent seemed wasted up there. With that said I hope Disney produces a live musical again (fingers crossed for Hercules) and will be performed in its entirety!



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