L.A. Theater Review: ‘The Little Mermaid in Concert’ at the Hollywood Bowl

L.A. Theater Review: 'Little Mermaid' at
Courtesy of Disney

The sea has been brought to life at the Hollywood (Fish)Bowl thanks to a game cast and classic movie.

The Hollywood Bowl has had success bringing stripped-down versions of Broadway shows to it’s amphitheater, from “The Producers” to “Spamalot,” but “The Little Mermaid in Concert,” playing through June 6, is something new. While the beloved 1989 Disney film has already been made into a Broadway musical, this version is a hybrid of the two: the film plays on screens throughout the Bowl and as they reach the musical numbers, the film stops to allow a performer to sing, backed by a flawless 71-piece orchestra. In addition, the concert features four songs written for the Broadway musical by Glenn Slater.

The result is a bit off at first (interrupting the film’s action and then returning to it can be slightly jarring) but all is forgiven when a series of phenomenally talented performers belt out the beloved tunes. While we know pop star Sara Bareilles, a Tony nominee for her “Watiress” score, has a beautiful voice, she also proves a great actress, conveying the sweetness and longing of Ariel, the mermaid who longs to live on land. “Glee” star Darren Criss gets to add some depth to the animated Prince Eric with the addition of the song “Her Voice.” Criss even provides accompaniment on the guitar, noting “I don’t play the flute” like his animated counterpart. Norm Lewis reprises the role of King Triton that he played on Broadway, a perfect match for his mighty baritone. Rebel Wilson may not have the legit voice of her co-stars, but makes up for it with attitude (or, as her Ursula might say, “body language.”) And 13-year-old Broadway actor Joshua Colley is a delight as Ariel’s sidekick Flounder in the number “She’s In Love.”

Actress Rebel Wilson performs at Disney’s “Little Mermaid In Concert” at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday.
Courtesy of Disney

But the show is stolen by two actors. John Stamos, clad in a ridiculous mustache and armed with a great sense of humor, brings the house down as Chef Louis with the number “Les Poissons.” Then there is “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” star Tituss Burgess, reprising his role from the Broadway show as Sebastian the crab. Burgess is simply perfection, filling the enormous Hollywood Bowl with electricity  as he unleashes joyful versions of “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” It’s almost a disappointment to return to the movie when he’s done — you never want him to leave the stage.

There are nice touches to add to the show, from fireworks to fantastic lighting. Costumes are excellent, suggesting the characters without being too overt. On Friday night, attendees were treated to a medley of Disney songs by composer Alan Menken, who wrote the score and collaborated on the songs with the late Howard Ashman for both the film and penned the score for the musical.

Menken will also perform at the Saturday night show. Jodi Benson, who played Ariel in the film, will take over for Bareilles on Monday night, made a guest appearance at the end of the show and captivated the audience with her rendition of “Part of Your World.”

Produced by Andrew Hewitt & Bill Silva Presents, Laura Engel & Richard Kraft and Tim Fox & Alison Ahart Williams, in association with Disney Concerts. Concert creative direction by Richard Kraft. The show continues Sat., June 4 and Mon., June 6 at 8 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m. Price range is $35 – $350 and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com or via hollywoodbowl.com.

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