Thursday, November 7, 2019
WTF was that? Watch: The Little Mermaid - Live!
Format: TV broadcast on ABC
This "show" was some rough going, and I hope it's not how anyone would introduce their child to The Little Mermaid, stage musicals or entertainment in general.
In honor of the 30th Anniversary of the animated The Little Mermaid, Disney, for reasons that remain totally unclear, decided to show the original The Little Mermaid, but when the movie reached the musical numbers, cut over to actors performing the numbers on a stage in front of their big movie screen.
Look, I've seen The Little Mermaid maybe twice and neither of those times occurred in the past 20 years. As with about 1 in 2 Disney movies, I just don't really click to the movie about a young, dumb mermaid in love with a guy she only met when he was wet and unconscious. I skipped TLM at the theater because I thought it was for very young children, and missed the memo that this movie the thing to tell people Disney was no longer making kinda bad movies. I finally saw it summer 1992, thought it was better than I expected, but was more into what Disney was doing when I did hit the theater for Beauty and the Beast in '91.
That said, I did work at The Disney Store for three summers and a Christmas between 1993-1995, and I had to know the movie and characters. Plus, they played a 90 minute laser disc over and over all day every day, and even when they brought in a new disc - it would still feature at least one mermaid song and, most likely, "Kiss the Girl".
Anyway, me and the movie have some history.
I was fooled by the first scene of the live show, which featured a cadre of dancers in sailor suits whooping it up. Heck, they included a real sheepdog to match the cartoon. But... things got a little sour as soon as we ducked beneath the waves.
But... short Queen Latifah whooping it up (she was honestly really fun) and some decent puppets... that was sorta it. Of course there were aerial performers, because we do that now.
Hey, fun fact: Humans do not live under water, and when you cover their legs with mermaid tails, they can only sort of sit up. They sure as hell can't move around. So, you get a lot of performers laying on fake rocks, sucking in their stomachs as they're stuck wearing clamshell bras, and trying to muster stage energy as they sort of prop themselves up here and there.
That famous scene of Ariel propping herself up on a rock while waves crash against the rocks around her? (a) turns out that looks weird when a person tries it and (b) that note she hits is a killer. I am not entirely sure that Moana star Auli'i Cravalho didn't hit that note off-key because, y'all, she was contorting herself into a position I used to do in karate class as one of our more awkward stretches.
What's crazy is that there is and has been a Broadway show. All of this should be fixed. None of this should look this... doofy.
I have no idea at what point someone didn't say "none of this is working", or didn't notice this looks bad, but it also had the distinct advantage of just needing to exist for one night. Or maybe migrate to Disneyland as part of a live show. But I can't really believe that once the execs saw what was happening, anyone was satisfied.
The show promised star power, but then kept the stars off the stage for a replay of the film for more than half the run-time. We got Stamos, who botched a line (hilariously calling Prince Eric "Prince Albert". Dude.).
For a detailed rundown that mostly jives with what I saw (I totally disagree that Shaggy looked comfortable. He genuinely appeared to have stage fright during his first number) here's the THR article on the show.
Honestly, I don't know why Disney did this when there's a "live-action" adaptation coming. Maybe to build some brand or pre-awareness. Maybe to work out some kinks. I have no clue. There IS a Broadway show! One would think this would be worked out. It is not.
I do know if I was that nice girl who gave voice to Moana, I'd be a bit pissed this was what Disney was using my contract to make me do instead of building a show around me.