If your familiarity with The Little Mermaid begins and ends with the 1989 big-screen adaptation, you’re in for a night of surprises. While ABC’s presentation of The Little Mermaid Live! (8/7c) remains faithful to the animated Disney classic, it also features a few lesser-known additions that are sure to have people tweeting. Or bubbling. Or whatever fish do on social media.
Let’s start with what may be new to you: Tonight’s event — which stars Auliʻi Cravalho as Ariel, Queen Latifah as Ursula, Shaggy as Sebastian, John Stamos as Chef Louis and Graham Phillips as Prince Eric — includes a combination of songs from the original movie and the 2008 Broadway production. These earworms-to-be include a ballad for Eric, which sheds some light on the inner workings of his #SadPrinceLife, as well as a duet between Ariel and her beloved prince.
ABC has also added the role of “emcee,” which will be played by Amber Riley. We’ll meet her during “Daughters of Triton,” as she takes the stage to introduce each of Ariel’s singing sisters. “The emcee has this grand entrance, and it’s really supposed to be about them, but she makes it a little bit about herself,” Riley explains. It’ll give the song a completely different vibe, but once you check out this preview of the former Glee star belting her part, you won’t ever want to hear the original again:
What’s more, the big event is opening with a special introduction from none other than Jodi Benson, who voiced the title character in the movie. She confirmed her involvement just days ago on Instagram, where she has continued to share invaluable behind-the-scenes treats for eager Disney devotees.
Now, let’s talk about what we won’t be seeing: Unlike previous televised musicals, The Little Mermaid Live! is only going live for its big numbers. When no one’s singing, it’ll be business as usual, with the original animated movie airing just as you remember it. So even though some songs from the Broadway version will be performed, we won’t have to endure the Broadway adaptation’s infamously less popular story changes. For example, logistical issues forced the stage version to cut the show’s final battle with giant Ursula, replacing it with an extremely forgettable singing contest.
That also means that Ursula and King Triton won’t be depicted as estranged siblings, as they were on Broadway. And while we’re on the subject, here’s a fun little fact: Ursula and Triton were originally supposed to be related in the movie, but the lyrics explaining their connection were ultimately cut from the opening number, “Fathoms Below,” thus axing the relation. (Frankly, I’m very curious about what Ursula and Triton’s parents looked like, considering their only two children turned out half-fish and half-octopus.)
As Phillips assures TVLine, “The only time we really make changes is when there would be a song. So it’ll still be the traditional story that everyone has all the nostalgia for. They’re keeping it real OG.”
Are you planning to check out The Little Mermaid Live! tonight? Which performances are you most anticipating? Whatever’s on your mind, drop it in a comment below.