ABC on Tuesday took us under the sea (and back again) with The Little Mermaid Live!, an ambitious production that blended the original 1989 animated classic with live-action musical numbers. And puppets. And aerialists. And Shaggy!
The two-hour event kicked off with a special introduction from Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, before launching into an extended version of everyone’s favorite expositional sea shanty “Fathoms Below.” We then relocated to the Kingdom of Atlantica, where the emcee — a new character designed for this production, played by Glee‘s Amber Riley — introduced Ariel’s sisters for a performance of “Daughters of Triton,” though we can all agree she stole the spotlight from those basic fishes.
Unfortunately, Ariel (played by Rise‘s Auli’i Cravalho) totally forgot about the concert, instead opting to scour the ocean floor in search of human trash — sorry, human “treasure” — with her best bud Flounder. Ariel’s old-yet-muscular father, King Triton, was understandably miffed that she chose to shirk her royal responsibilities, instructing his crab-in-chief Sebastian (played by Shaggy) to keep a closer eye on her.
Sebastian put his best claw forward, first by sneaking into Ariel’s museum of human trinkets (“Part of Your World”), then by enlisting everyone in his contact list to join him for a pro-ocean propaganda number (“Under the Sea”), but his efforts failed to extinguish Ariel’s fascination with the human world. In fact, her obsession only became more intense, especially after she laid eyes on Eric (played by The Good Wife‘s Graham Phillips), a dim-yet-delightful prince she saved from drowning. And as we learned during Eric’s big solo number (“Her Voice”), he’s just as depressed about being an attractive royal as she is.
Ariel’s desire to join Eric in the human world led her to Ursula (played by Queen Latifah), a sassy sea witch who offered to make her a human for three days in exchange for her voice (“Poor Unfortunate Souls”). A fair trade? Of course not. But considering Ariel doesn’t even know what a fork is, did you really expect her to read — let alone comprehend — the fine print on a binding contract in the middle of a musical number? Fish, please.
Though Ariel’s mute, two-legged adventures got off to a good start — Eric even invited her to live with him, no questions asked! — the situation soon took a chaotic turn when the palace’s royal chef (played by John Stamos) attempted to serve Sebastian for dinner (“Les Poissons”). With only one day left on land, Sebastian once again employed the assistance of his musical animal friends, this time to get Eric to “Kiss the Girl” and make Ariel a human forever. Unfortunately, his plans were foiled by Ursula’s hench-eels, who tipped the couple’s rowboat over before they got a chance to lock lips.
Here’s where things got real soapy: Upon realizing that Ariel’s powers of silent seduction were simply too strong, Ursula disguised herself as a gorgeous human and used the mermaid’s stolen voice to lure Eric into a dark engagement. And while Ariel’s animal army was able to stop the wedding, her reunion with Eric didn’t quite make the three-day cut. So not only was there no reception (boo!), but Ariel and Eric — OK, mostly Eric — were forced to battle a giant Ursula, armed with the power of Triton’s trident. (Wow, try saying that three times fast.)
In the end, Triton forgave his daughter for defying his orders and putting the entire ocean in jeopardy, rewarding her disobedience with a pair of magical legs. And she and Eric lived happily ever after. And no one learned anything.
Tell us: Did The Little Mermaid Live! meet your expectations? What was your favorite musical number? And which actor gave the best performance? Grade the production below, then drop a comment with your full review.