The cast of Tuesday’s spectacle, “The Magical World of Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” featured Auli’i Cravalo as Ariel, and actor Graham Phillips as Prince Eric, who previously starred in “The Good Wife” and “Riverdale.” Other cast members include Queen Latifah as Ursula, “Full House” star John Stamos as Chef Louis, and “It Wasn’t Me” singer Shaggy as Sebastian.
Taking on the role of Ariel, as well as Moana, Auli’i Cravalo has crossed Disney Princess paths, preceded only by Lea Salonga. Cravalo played the role of Moana in the 2016 title film, as well as Ariel in this modern adaptation. Lea Salonga, who stars both on stage in Miss Saigon and on-screen, provided the singing voices for both Jasmine in Aladdin and Mulan.
Shaggy’s portrayal of Sebastian seemed stiff compared to the other performers, who seemed to be embracing their roles, especially John Stamos. After “Les Poissons,” Stamos proudly exclaimed, “I knew I could have played Prince Albert! Er, Eric.”
The staging is practically identical to the original film, which helped the transitions from animation to stage. Seamless transitions were perfected for home viewers, all accompanied by choreography, aeriel (no pun intended) artists and the members of the audience to enhance parts of the set. During the opening song, they waved silk scarves to look like waves and later were fitted with crab pincers during “Les Poissons.”
Minor lyrical changes were added to this rendition, including a callback from Ariel during the full-cast song “Under the Sea,” which was heavily diluted with vibrant colors and action filling all areas of the stage completely. “Part of Your World Reprise” included an interpretation of Ariel’s daydream, with aerialist doubles portraying a world in which Ariel and Eric could swim together. Another small edit was having two dancers on the stage twirling as part of a larger-than-life music box in Ariel’s grotto.
Besides lyrical changes, the costumes were also updated for live-action performers. Shaggy was sporting a shiny pleather-looking jacket with 80s-inspired crab-like shoulder pads during “Kiss the Girl.” Queen Latifah as Ursula rocked the largest costume of the night, complete with moving tentacles maneuvered from above, perfect for an octopus sea witch.
Though some creatures like Scuttle and Sebastian were portrayed by actors in costume, fishy friend Flounder was a puppet. This differs from the Broadway adaptation in which everyone’s favorite fish sidekick was played by a young male actor. The Broadway adaptation chose to use skates instead of wires or aerialists to incorporate the underwater effects. However, Eric’s trusty sidekick Max was portrayed by a real sheepdog during the opening song, “Fathoms Below,” sung by Prince Eric and his sailing crew.
Disney loves to include its so-called “Easter Eggs,” which are small details in a film that reference other Disney films. Some with a careful eye may have spotted the framed paintings of Lady Tremaine and Captain Hook beside Ariel’s palace vanity.
The prince has no singing roles in the film adaptation, though the 2007 Broadway production contains multiple songs for the character of Eric, and the upcoming live-action film is rumored to contain original songs.
After awakening from his near-death experience, Eric sings about his mystery (mer)woman. Graham Phillips showed off his chops in “Her Voice.” America’s second–favorite flutist (second to Lizzo, of course) then sings a new duet, following Shaggy’s “Kiss the Girl,” combining “Her Voice” and “If Only” from the Broadway adaptation. These unexpected additions took a risk and the audience was pleasantly surprised by Phillips’ singing talent.
During commercial breaks, Disney featured some behind-the-scenes looks during the ads, following Auli’i as she moves from place to place in a wheelchair, holding the larger-than-life iconic tail. John Stamos also received focus before his song, “Les Poissons.” The only thing dampening the magic was the commercial breaks, which were more frequent than regular cable television and lasted multiple minutes.
If you missed the live performance, no worries! “The Magical World of Disney’s The Little Mermaid” is available online on ABC.com, free of charge. Disney will soon be splashing in with another adaptation of the classic tale starring Halle Bailey as Ariel.