Everything I Loved and Hated about The Little Mermaid Live!

Full disclosure: Ariel has always been my favorite Disney princess. 

Growing up, I used to watch the movie multiple times a day, courtesy of my family’s VHS player. When I met her at Disney World, I was legitimately starstruck. I used to tell people that I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. So, when I say she was and is my favorite – I make no jokes.

That being said, when I heard there was going to be a live special of The Little Mermaid on ABC incorporating the original animation with live musical numbers, I was beyond excited. And finally, on November 5th, it premiered!    

I have a lot of feelings, so let’s just get into it.

The opening number, Fathoms Below, started the show off with a bang! The dancing was lively and fun, and I loved the rendition of the song. We are introduced to our lovely Eric, Graham Phillips. Although in the movie, Eric does not sing, he has a huge part throughout the special. And thank God for that – I don’t think the world could be derived of Graham’s voice any longer.

We move onto Daughters of Triton – the infamous scene where Ariel, rather than singing at the musical performance with her sisters, is off exploring a shipwreck. This was a minor number in the movie, but I loved the live version. The harmonizing of the sisters was beautiful, and the entire set-up was just gorgeous. 

Around the scene where Ariel is talking to Scuttle about her newly-found dinglehopper, I started to realize something. There was a live orchestra playing the score, not just for the live performances, but also for the animated movie. This is especially prominent when King Triton reprimands Ariel for her behavior. I really enjoyed this element; it added a whole other layer of life to the story. 

The production of Part of Your World, the original, was exactly what I pictured it would be. The setting of Ariel’s collection was as whimsical and eye-catching as it is in the animation. I especially loved the addition of the dancers into the performance when Ariel sings of what it would be like to be human. 

Though the original Part of Your World was wonderful, I was slightly disappointed with the reprise. Auli’i’s and Graham’s dancing/swimming in the background came off a bit distracting to me. I would have preferred staying true to the animation in this case and having Ariel sing directly to Eric. Not only would it be more pleasing production wise, it also would have added interaction between Auli’i and Graham, which was overall lacking throughout the entire live performance. They only had two songs in which they were knowingly together, and one was the finale. I would have loved to see more development there, and that definitely could have been done with Part of Your World (Reprise).

Under the Sea was as exorbitant and fun as it is the animation. I appreciated the incorporation of Ariel’s disinterest and longing for the human world into the number. Although the costume was not...great, Shaggy did a great job as Sebastian.

By far, the best number in the live production was Queen Latifah’s rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls. Everything from her entrance, to the modification of the lyrics, to the entire staging was absolutely fantastic. No complaints.

Once again, Graham Philips’ voice is gifted to us in Her Voice, a song written for the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid. Truly, I cannot get over his voice. Like, where has he been hiding?!

There’s no way to describe John Stamos’ Les Poissons performance other than...well, strange. Honestly, it was hilarious and I loved watching it. I think John had a lot of fun with this performance, and it definitely shows. 

I was most excited for Kiss the Girl, and I have to say, I was ultimately happy! The set-up was just how I pictured it, and it was relieving to finally see some interaction between Auli’i and Graham. My only disappointment was the omission of the dialogue where Eric guesses Ariel’s name – it’s such an adorable scene in the movie, I think it would have been even more so in the live. 

Ariel and Eric’s duet, If Only, was another song from the Broadway musical. And, all I can say is wow. Auli’i and Graham are both strong vocalists on their own, so together, it truly felt like magic. Every musical needs a strong duet, and If Only definitely satisfied that.

Speaking of vocals, Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)? Honestly, I’m just so happy that Queen Latifah was Ursula. She was a dream.

From here, the entire climax – Eric almost marrying Ursula, Ariel turning into a mermaid again, the battle scene – was all through the animation. Though there were not any musical numbers from the movie to pull from, I do wish they were somehow incorporated into the live performance. It was strange and disconnecting to go from Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise) to Ariel and Eric’s wedding. That being said, the finale was fun and adorable and a sweet ending to the production.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the special. The cast was great, the music was amazing, and the stage production was just what I wanted. By no means was it perfect, and there were definitely some things I wish were in the live that were not. But, hey, there’s still a live action The Little Mermaid to be seen!