“The Little Mermaid Live!” may be named after Ariel, but during ABC’s musical event, Ursula stole the show.
Queen Latifah portrayed the singing sea witch, voiced by Pat Carroll in the animated film and previously played onstage by Rebel Wilson, Harvey Fierstein and Sherie Rene Scott. We are richer beings for witnessing her knockout number, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
Here are all the things we loved about Latifah’s take on the beloved villain:
Her marionette tentacles.
As a conniving cephalopod, Latifah made a spectacular entrance by descending onto the stage with her tentacles dancing along to her song.
Her latex look.
After singing the first few bars of her song, Latifah ripped open her purple dress (really, a cleverly designed floor-length harness) to reveal a body-hugging black latex gown, with a sweetheart neckline and a trumpet-like train. She then sauntered across the stage and picked up a matching eel, which she wore as a boa around her shoulders.
Her powerful voice.
Audiences shouldn’t be surprised that Latifah could conquer “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” a song that requires strong vocals and a delicious personality. Latifah previously sang onscreen in Warner Bros.’ gospel choir movie “Joyful Noise” in 2012, the New Line movie-musical “Hairspray” in 2007 — later made into its own live musical — and the Miramax adaptation of “Chicago” in 2002, for which she received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
Her aquatic makeup.
With blue eye shadow and burgundy lipstick, Latifah’s look was completed by a white-gray wig with waves that seemed to stand straight up. The fireworks of her cauldron paled in comparison to her ensemble.
Her unmistakable stage presence.
As many of the networks’ previous live musicals have illustrated, it’s tough to evoke stage presence through a screen. But Latifah is a seasoned actress of film, TV and theater, and shows off her ability to engage both the live audience at Disney’s “dive-in theater” — a sound stage in Burbank — and those watching at home. She works the camera and the crowd, leaving no one wanting. (Latifah was previously a highlight of NBC’s live musical version of “The Wiz” in 2015. Talk about cornering the market.)