Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” live concert is set to return to the Hollywood Bowl next month just in time for the film’s 30th anniversary, with Lea Michele as golden-voiced mermaid Ariel, Cheech Marin as the sadistic Chef Louis, Peter Gallagher as the stately merman King Triton and, yes, Harvey Fierstein singing as the cephalopod sea witch Ursula.
The concert is to be staged May 17 and 18 and directed and co-produced by Richard Kraft, along with the same team who brought successful live-concert performances of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to the Bowl.
“The Little Mermaid” concert originally debuted at the Bowl three years ago, and Kraft said that each time the group does another production, it strives to one-up itself. In this case, the Bowl is to be transformed into the Hollywood Fish Bowl Dive-In Theater, with digital projection mapping of “living scenery” on the venue’s shell enlivening the evening’s under-the-sea theme.
Kraft called the projections by the immersive design agency and media studio Mousetrappe a “game changer” that will make watching the show akin to a theme-park experience augmented with live music and film. Kraft knows something about theme parks, having once owned (and auctioned off) one of the world’s largest collections of Disney theme-park memorabilia. He drew inspiration for the Bowl’s digital mapping from the castle projection shows he enjoyed on trips to Disneyland.
“Sometimes it’s a frame, sometimes it’s an equivalent of scenery and sometimes it’s a costar,” Kraft said of the projections, which will complement a slew of aquatic-themed inventions, including underwater-themed coming attractions, animated sea-based snack-bar commercials and the 1938 Silly Symphony cartoon "Merbabies" featuring a world-premiere original score composed and performed by 17-year-old pianist Emily Bear.
Then there are the night’s other costars, the performers who will reprise classic songs such as “Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl," "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and "Part of Your World."
Kraft said he first saw Fierstein sing as Ursula at Carnegie Hall during an Alan Menken concert. Menken wrote the score for “The Little Mermaid” and is to appear as a special guest at the Bowl.
“It brought down the house,” Kraft said of Fierstein’s performance, adding that his casting choices may seem a little bizarre, but that he has a master plan. He said he approached casting the show as if he were putting together a dinner party with a wildly eclectic guest list.
“We certainly got it,” he said. “And Harvey will be at the head of the table.”