The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live is the first live musical broadcast from ABC. The production — which mixes live performances with animated sequences — is timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the animated classic The Little Mermaid. Think of it as a celebration of the material, rather than a standalone version.
Of course, half the fun of televised musicals is seeing which performers are stepping into these beloved roles. This special features a cast of musical veterans, along with stars of stage and screen. Here's a look at the primary cast members.
After her breakout role as the titular Moana, Cravalho can add another Disney Princess notch to her belt, but that isn’t the only qualification that makes her such a reliable choice to play Ariel under the pressures of live television, where in-the-moment mishaps are inevitable. Witness her Oscar telecast performance of the Moana anthem “How Far I’ll Go.” Not only did she handle the pressures of a global audience with ease, she absorbed the impact of a rogue baton to the head with unfazed skill.
Speaking of Oscar, this casting has to be the most natural fit among this production’s cast. Latifah boasts multiple screen musical performances to her credit, including an Oscar nomination for Chicago. The iconic, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”-belting role of Ursula fits her like a glove.
Familiar to television audiences as Julianna Margulies' son Zach in The Good Wife, Phillips began his career on the Broadway stage, giving him a theatre pedigree that not all of this production’s cast can boast. But with additional performances on shows like Riverdale and Blockers, Phillips also safely checks what is perhaps the most important box when portraying the flop-haired Prince Eric: teen heartthrob.
The brief appearance of Chef Louis is an essential moment of lunacy in The Little Mermaid’s mostly earnest musical plotting, but when we think of the silly chef who prepares seafood with vicious glee, we probably don’t think of eye candy like Uncle Jesse. Especially when he was all but a Prince Eric doppleganger just yesterday, but Stamos has already played the role live at the Hollywood Bowl, in addition to his numerous Broadway credits.
Though most will remember Mr. Boombastic from his chart topping 2000 hit “It Wasn’t Me,” he’s been working steadily ever since. Here he's playing a crustacean singing on the ocean floor. That’s right, they cast Sebastian with an actual reggae artist, Mr. Lover-Lover himself. Whoever came up with this ingenious casting deserves the admiration of everyone who fell in love with “Angel” in 2000.
Best known for her role in Glee, the sing/actress has come a long way since walking the halls of McKinley High School. After winning season thirteen of Dancing With The Stars, she won raves and an Olivier (the UK equivalent of a Tony) for her performance as Effie White in a West End revival of Dreamgirls. How the musical will incorporate a host remains to be seen, but we'd be surprised if it doesn't include any vocal fireworks from Riley.
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Chris Feil is a freelancer writer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His previous work can be found at Vulture, Vice, Paste, and The Film Experience. Follow him @chrisvfeil on Twitter.