Ariel will make her Hollywood Bowl debut June 4 when Sara Bareilles and Rebel Wilson headline a cast performing the songs from Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the film plays backed by a 71-piece live orchestra.
Bareilles will play Ariel, the titular mermaid, while Wilson has signed on as Ursula, the sea witch. The cast also includes John Stamos as Chef Louis, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, Darren Criss as Prince Eric, Norm Lewis as King Triton and Joshua Colley as Flounder.
The idea for the Hollywood Bowl recreation came about as The Little Mermaid’s co-composer, eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, and his representative, Kraft-Engel Management co-owner Richard Kraft, were discussing possible touring plans. “Richard said, ‘how would you feel about a live performance of The Little Mermaid with the film, orchestra and guest performers?’ I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding. That would be unreal!,’” recalls Menken.
Menken, who co-wrote the music for the 1989 film with his late partner Howard Ashman, says this will mark the first time his score has been performed in its entirety by a live orchestra since he recorded it at Todd-AO Recording Stage more than 25 years ago. “That was my very first full score for a film,” he tells Billboard. “I was nervous and I learned an immense amount both in the writing and in the recording of the score.”
Among Menken’s beloved songs from the movie are “Under the Sea,” “Kiss The Girl,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Part of Your World,” which Bareilles recently went into an impromptu performance of on March 30 to entertain the audience when part of the set quit working in her new Broadway play Waitress.
“I’ve been pretending I was Ariel in swimming pools since I was a little girl, and now I get to pretend on a bigger stage. This is just fantastic,” said Bareilles in a statement.
Wilson labels herself a Menken “fan-girl,” in a statement, adding Ursula is “just such a delicious role that I’ve always wanted to play.”
The Hollywood Bowl performance will also include additional songs Menken co-wrote for the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid, including his favorite, “Her Voice,” sung by Prince Eric. “I’m so excited about that,” he says. “Seeing the material from the movie wedded to the Broadway show will be incredible.”
Michael Kosarin, who has worked with Menken since 1994, will lead the orchestra and a 12-person choir.
Menken, 66, says there has been talk about touring The Little Mermaid film backed by live orchestras in front of audiences, but there are “no concrete plans yet,” he says. “For a lot of us, it’s wait and see how the Hollywood Bowl goes.”
For the composer, the ongoing love for The Little Mermaid and the vaunted position it holds in the pantheon of great Disney animated films is a continuing thrill for him. “I still feel like the off-off-Broadway struggling composer who first wrote Little Shop of Horrors, but one day you wake up and you’ve turned into something bigger,” he says. “It is a bit of an out of body experience when you know that people have grown up investing so much in something you wrote.”
Menken will open the Hollywood Bowl show with a medley of his best-known songs from Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Newsies, Enchanted, and Tangled. “Then I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show like everyone else,” he says.
Tickets go on sale April 9 at 10 a.m Pacific Time via ticketmaster.com.
UPDATE: A second show on June 3 has been added. Tickets for that performance go on sale on April 9, as well.
UPDATE: A third show on June 6 has been added. Tickets go on sale April 27.