‘Little Mermaid’ Live Musical: Auli’i Cravalho, Shaggy & Hamish Hamilton Go Under The Sea To Describe ABC’s “Interesting Hybrid” – TCA

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Director Hamish Hamilton and stars Auli’i Cravalho and Shaggy have gone under the sea to explain how ABC’s upcoming The Little Mermaid live special will translate to screens.

Hamilton, who also is an exec producer, revealed that it will be half-live musical and half-original animated feature – an “interesting hybrid.”

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He said that people will be invited to the Little Mermaid theater – he showed visuals at this afternoon’s panel at the summer TCA press tour – on the Disney studio lot where the 1989 movie will be projected before the stars including Cravalho, Queen Latifah and Shaggy dive in for the musical numbers.

The Little Mermaid Live! is a celebration. We’re celebrating this incredible animated feature, and we’re gonna do it on the Disney lot, Hamilton said. “We’re going to do it live‑to‑air in front of a live audience in a room that we’ve created. So we’re going to invite anybody to come, both televisionally and real people, real fans, come to our Little Mermaid theater. In the middle of the room, we will have a giant projection surface, and on that projection surface we will play the feature. When we get to one of Alan [Merken] and Howard [Ashman’s wonderful songs, essentially we will transition beautifully and smoothly into a world of live performance.”

Cravalho stars as Ariel – although it’s not clear whether she will wear a red wig – while Queen Latifah plays Ursula and Shaggy stars as Sebastian. The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live will air on November 5 to celebrate the movie’s 30th anniversary.

Cravalho said that she shared the “curiosity” and “joy” of Ariel. “I think there is just so much room to play with that while, of course, still paying homage to the original character. That’s me anyway. And, of course, there’s so many beautiful set designs and so much of, really, a visual buffet that I am part of this, but there’s also just so much more that I know people will enjoy that I won’t have to worry too, too much about what I bring to the character because I bring myself, and I feel like that’s enough.”

Shaggy said that this is his second time getting involved with Little Mermaid, having recorded a rap version of Under The Sea in 1996. “I have three daughters and I had to sit down there and watch this movie, the original movie, over and over and over and over and over and over again. I feel like Sebastian is me because after a while, you are watching it and your girls are there, and because they are reciting every line to it, you’ve got to join in at some point because that’s the only way you are getting points as a dad.

The hybrid format will combine music from the original animated film and the Tony Award-winning Broadway stage version, composed by eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken. Howard Ashman’s film lyrics will also be showcased, alongside Glenn Slater’s work. There will not be any new, original songs in the special.

When asked whether there would be any understudies for the live performance, referencing the live version of Rent, Hamilton said, “We don’t have understudies, but we have a robust plan to, kind of, combat all of those kinds of situations, to be honest with you.”

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