A couple of weeks ago, Disney fans were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime event at the legendary Hollywood Bowl: “The Little Mermaid In Concert Live to Film.” OK, technically it was thrice-in-a-lifetime because the show was performed by an all-star cast for three nights, but only the last night featured the original Ariel herself, Jodi Benson!
Also performing were Rebel Wilson as Ursula, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian (a role he originated on Broadway), Darren Criss as Prince Eric, Norm Lewis as King Triton (a role he originated on Broadway too!), Joshua Colley as Flounder, and John Stamos (he owns the Disneyland sign—no other credentials necessary!) as crazy Chef Louis. Although we missed Alan Menken as the opening act the first two nights, instead we got Brad Kane (the original singing voice of Aladdin) and Susan Egan (Hercules‘ Megara and the first Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway)—a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me!
Seeing that D23 was offering a member discount and in total denial about The Muppets’ chances of cancellation, we sank Nacho’s college fund into the best seats we’ve ever had at the Bowl, right up front in the Pool Circle. This spot was a reflecting pool until 1972, when they figured out they could squeeze more bodies in there and charge up the wazoo for the privilege. But didn’t it look rad as a pool?
In 1959 they even installed colored fountains and a gas jet and held pre-show displays that were basically an early version of Disney California Adventure’s World of Color!
Today the sleek lines of the proscenium arch and stage are marred by bulky screens, but those sure do help you see what’s going on when you’re way up in the $1 seats of the Nosebleed Section!
Unfortunately, the security guys decided that our real camera was too professional and made us check it, so all of these are iPhone shots. Sorry, readers! As we took our seats, Darren Criss was wrapping up a costume contest and starting to introduce an all-star line-up of Disney Animation talent.
I wish I’d caught all the names, but I do recognize Lion King director Rob Minkoff and Academy Award winner Brenda Chapman in this shot.
Ooooh, and Andreas Deja at the end of the line here!
And of course John Musker and Ron Clements, directors of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & The Frog and the forthcoming Moana, not to mention Hercules, Treasure Planet and The Great Mouse Detective (dagnabbit—I mentioned them!).
Just as we were settling in and enjoying our fabulous view of the stage….
…THIS guy showed up!
Brad Kane opened the show with an energetic rendition of “One Jump Ahead” from Aladdin, accompanied by female and male choirs who would later perform the parts of the Daughters of Triton and Prince Eric’s shipmates, respectively.
When Kane sang the deleted-from-the-film song “Proud of Your Boy,” he dedicated it to his mom, who was in the audience. Sniff!
But what really got me was when Susan Egan came out to sing “Belle (Reprise)” from the opening of Beauty and the Beast.
Something about the optimism and excitement when she sings, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere!” switched on the waterworks for me! Maybe I was just appreciating how special it was to be there watching all these great performers live.
And of course she had to sing everybody’s favorite but mine, “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” from Hercules, complete with muses!
Egan and Kane closed their act with a duet on “Part of Your World”—what a treat!
Another surprisingly affecting moment was hearing the Disney Pictures animated logo at the beginning of the film performed live! And of course then there were real fake sailors on stage singing the opening sea shanty.
One downside to sitting so close: The Bowl’s biggest screen is virtually useless!
But of course it was amazing to actually be able to see the performer’s faces, something that neither of us had ever sat close enough to see before.
The movie was paused for each performer or group to take the stage, then the picture was played without sound as they provided the music. When Jodi Benson took the stage, she brought the house down—the first of many standing ovations that night.
And of course her first song is “Part of Your World,” which the filmmakers were originally worried would drag the film down. At the time, the formula was to front-load the production with upbeat numbers, but as we all know now, this song was special.
The voice of Flounder was provided by newcomer Joshua Colley, who dazzled us all with his big stage presence and amazing voice.
But the one who really stole the show was Tituss Andronicu—er, Burgess as Sebastian singing “Under the Sea.” I’ll admit I’ve found his character on Unbreakble Kimmy Schmidt pretty hard to take, but seeing him in his milieu it suddenly made sense. He is an amazing stage performer!
Another standing O!
Norm Lewis’ performance of King Triton was also fantastic. It made me wish I’d seen The Little Mermaid when it was on Broadway.
What can I say about Rebel Wilson? Nobody can top Pat Carroll’s performance or even come close. But Wilson gamely sank her teeth into the part, lending it her own hilarious brand of sass.
Something about her huge white wig gave my iPhone camera fits, so not very many shots of her turned out. I know this one is way out of focus, but I love the performers’ poses.
When the show came back from intermission, violinist Sandy Cameron flitted about the stage performing a rousing “Fantasy on Themes from Disney’s the Little Mermaid” to lead us back into the movie.
Next, Disney-bounding Darren Criss came back out to sing the song they shoehorned into the Broadway production for Prince Eric. It was actually a pretty great number—probably the one I liked best of all the new songs. The girls in the audience swooned.
Then somebody let a mime up on stage…
Oh wait—it’s The World’s Most Famous Disney Fan, John Stamos! In a fake mustache and a beret! Singing Chef Louie’s song, “Les Poissons”!
For a guy singing about fish, he sure hammed it up!
Tituss Burgess stopped the show again with his rendition of “Kiss the Girl.”
The last live number to accompany the film was a Broadway-production quartet called “If Only” sung by Sebastian, Ariel, Prince Eric and King Triton. My iPhone couldn’t get them all in the shot…
And then they lived Happily Ever After!
One bummer about the Pool Circle is you can’t see any of the fireworks, which seems a shame considering how spendy those seats are.
As an encore, Jodi Benson came back out in a beauuuuuuuutiful gown and sang a number from her first collaboration with Howard Ashman, a musical called “Smile.” The song was titled, appropriately, “Disneyland,” and Benson brought the crowd back to their feet again.
Then all the performers returned for their curtain call, including Egan and Kane.
Jodi Benson was so excited she did an adorable little twirl!
Then everybody sang “Under the Sea” one more time!
There you have it! I always feel bad about documenting one-off experiences because I can’t enthuse about how you guys really should run right out and see this. However, the Hollywood Bowl seems to be doing more and more movie-with-live-accompaniment shows, so who knows? Maybe this one was enough of a hit that they’ll bring it back next year!