ABC spe­cial com­bines filmed and live ver­sions of ‘The Lit­tle Mer­maid’

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Cover Story -

Fa­mil­iar though “The Lit­tle Mer­maid” is, a tele­vi­sion ver­sion is about to of­fer it in a hy­brid of forms.

When ABC re­vives the “Won­der­ful World of Dis­ney” ban­ner for “The Lit­tle Mer­maid Live!” Tues­day, Nov. 5, se­quences from the Dis­ney film will be part of the pro­ceed­ings mark­ing its 30th an­niver­sary. So will per­for­mances lit­er­ally bring­ing to life the Os­car-win­ning score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ash­man, in­clud­ing the tunes “Un­der the Sea,” “Part of Your World” and “Kiss the Girl.”

“When it is the an­i­mated-fea­ture sec­tion, it will play in its en­tirety,” ex­plains va­ri­ety-show vet­eran Hamish Hamil­ton, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and the di­rec­tor of the spe­cial. “We are not ask­ing these guys to re-voice the orig­i­nal fea­ture, (which) will ex­ist ex­actly as it al­ways has. Then, when we come to a song, we will tran­si­tion from the orig­i­nal to the new.”

Auli’i Cravalho – who’s had Dis­ney ex­pe­ri­ence as the voice of Moana – will play mer­maid Ariel in a cast that’s also set to in­clude Shaggy as crab Se­bas­tian, Queen Lat­i­fah as witch Ur­sula, John Sta­mos as Chef Louis and Gra­ham Phillips (“The Good Wife”) as Prince Eric; Am­ber Ri­ley (“Glee”) will serve as host. A full stage ver­sion of “The Lit­tle Mer­maid” ran on Broad­way in 2008-09, and songs com­posed for it (with lyrics by Glenn Slater) also will be in­cor­po­rated into the tele­vi­sion event.

“I think I share the cu­rios­ity and that joy that Ariel has,” Cravalho says in in­her­it­ing the role. “There is just so much room to play with that while, of course, still pay­ing homage to the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter. And there’s so many beau­ti­ful set de­signs and just so much more that I know peo­ple will en­joy, I won’t have to worry too much about what I bring to the char­ac­ter. I bring my­self, and I feel like that’s enough.”

“The Lit­tle Mer­maid” has had other live in­car­na­tions at Los An­ge­les’ Hol­ly­wood Bowl that also com­bined the movie and live per­for­mances. Sara Bareilles per­formed the part of Ariel and Rebel Wil­son was Ur­sula in the 2016 ver­sion (which also fea­tured Sta­mos), while Lea Michele and Har­vey Fier­stein had those parts this past May. Dis­ney also is plan­ning a live-ac­tion “Mer­maid” movie, with Halle Bai­ley of the sib­ling mu­sic duo Chloe x Halle signed to play Ariel.

Com­poser Menken deems him­self “like an ar­chi­tect” when it comes to his work: “I de­sign a house that other peo­ple will live in, and I’ve been very for­tu­nate that very tal­ented peo­ple have lived in those houses or built those houses. I re­ally like kind of be­ing the grandpa. My children are born, they’re out in the world, and they’re find­ing their own way.”

(From left) Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and di­rec­tor Hamish Hamil­ton, stars Shaggy and Auli’i Cravalho, com­poser Alan Menken and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Ian Ste­wart

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