The Little Mermaid Live: everything you need to know about the musical television show

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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This November a live-action staging of the Broadway musical The Little Mermaid will be released on television. With a star-studded cast, some of whom come with serious Disney pedigree, we can’t wait.

Somewhat confusingly, there are a couple of live action The Little Mermaid productions currently in the works.

There’s the Disney movie, starring Halle Bailey (of Chloe x Halle fame) as Ariel, the flame-haired mermaid princess, with Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay as her animal companions Scuttle and Flounder. (Melissa McCarthy is rumoured to be taking on the role of Ursula, with Javier Bardem as King Triton. Sadly, though, Harry Styles turned down the role of Prince Eric.) That movie, directed by Rob Marshall and with new music from Lin Manuel Miranda, is slated for release in 2021.

If you can’t wait until then, never fear. A second live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid is coming very soon. A live version of the Broadway musical based on the film and featuring its most famous songs – are you following us? We know it’s confusing – is coming to television on 5 November.

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The Little Mermaid Live! follows the storied tradition of staging musicals live in front of audiences and releasing them simultaneously on television. These live adaptations usually feature star-studded casts. Remember when John Legend starred in Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat (winning an Emmy in the process?) or when Vanessa Hudgens took on the role of Rizzo in the live musical staging of Grease?

The Little Mermaid Live! is no different, boasting a fantastic cast, some of whom have well-established Disney pedigrees. Here is everything you need to know about the television show: 

Who is in the cast of The Little Mermaid Live!

Television network ABC has released a short video introducing audiences to the cast of their live action musical, and it’s pretty epic.

Auli’i Cravalho, aka the voice of Moana in the eponymous Disney animated film, will be belting out Part Of Your World in the live musical, complete with red hair and purple costume. Queen Latifah will terrify audiences as Ursula, no doubt slaying her rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls.

Shaggy – yes, you read that right – will play Sebastian the Crab. We can’t wait to hear his Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl. Full House’s John Stamos will make a cameo as the lobster-loving Chef Louis with Homeland’s Graham Phillips taking on Prince Eric. 

“Forget under the sea (for a second),” Cravalho wrote on Instagram when the news of the production was announced. “I’m OVER THE MOON about this project! 5 November can’t come soon enough!” 

How is the musical different from the movie? 

Well, it is. And it isn’t.

The Broadway musical version of The Little Mermaid is, like all Broadway musical versions of Disney films, remarkably similar to the cartoon upon which it is based. All of your favourite songs from the film are present in the musical with some added extras penned by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman – the team behind the music from the original – and Glenn Slater.

Ariel from The Little Mermaid - surprised expression
Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

Some scenes that were possible in the cartoon simply can’t be staged with people who aren’t, you know, mermaids and fish. Remember how we meet Ariel and Flounder as they swim away from some sharks? That scene is removed from the musical and replaced with a new song for Ariel called The World Above in which she plays with a fork. 

There are 10 new songs, many of which are given to Ariel to sing. This is a good thing because, if you can recall the 1989 original film, you’ll know that despite being the main character, Ariel only sings a few songs herself.

Ursula in The Little Mermaid.

There’s also a key addition to the background and development of Ursula as a character. In the musical, Ursula is shown as the sister of King Triton, something that was originally mooted for inclusion in the film but was removed. In this version, though, Ursula and Triton are shown as the two children of Poseidon who, upon his death, are each given dominion over half of the ocean. Slowly, though, Ursula turns to dark magic and her jealousy of Ariel’s beauty and singing voice leads her to target the princess. 

Will there be anything else new in The Little Mermaid Live! 

Yes. Producers have revealed that the production will be a “never-before-seen hybrid format” that combines the “beautifully intricate sets and costumes” of the Broadway play with “music from the original”. 

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It will also feature live performances from the cast as well as snippets of footage and animation from the 1989 animated film. 

When is The Little Mermaid Live! released?

The Little Mermaid Live! will be on television on 5 November at 8pm EST on ABC in the US. 

Images: Getty, Disney


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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