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Taking a page out of NBC's playbook, ABC (the TV network owned by Disney) is preparing to put on its first-ever live stage production of a beloved classic, Variety reports. The material will be The Little Mermaid with Auli’i Cravalho, best known for voicing Moana of Motunui, playing Princess Ariel. It's a great casting choice, especially since Cravalho — a native of Hawaii —proved herself insanely talented in 2016's Moana, not only voicing the titular character but providing her spectacular singing voice as well. Compound that with the fact that she's only 18 years old, and it's mind-blowingly impressive.
In addition to Cravalho, Queen Latifah and Shaggy have been hired to portray Ursula the sea witch (the main antagonist) and Sebastian (the uptight red crab), respectively. Both characters sing two of the story's biggest and most popular songs: "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and "Under the Sea." Further casting announcements will be made at a later time.
According to the initial report, "Little Mermaid Live" (scheduled to premiere Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. EST) is all set to feature music from the original film as well as the Tony-winning Broadway adaptation that widely launched in 2008. Hamish Hamilton is locked in as a director/producer for the on-air special, which is also being produced by Katy Mullan, David Jammy, Raj Kapoor, Ian Stewart, and Richard Kraft. In particular, Kraft is well known for helping realize performances of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast at the Hollywood Bowl.
The air date was chosen specifically to hype up the debut of Disney+, which goes live Tuesday, Nov. 12.
"We wanted to launch it in November, in time to coincide with the launch of Disney Plus,” ABC network president Karey Burke said to Variety, also revealing that the live show has been gestating for some time; with the 30th anniversary arriving in November, the network decided to fast track the idea. “It felt like a great promotional platform to speak to that. And I didn’t want to do a lot of musicals for the sake of doing one. What felt right was to do something that was a classic Disney title. To have the support of the Wonderful World of Disney behind this, just felt like all the stars have now aligned for us to try our first one with this particular piece.”
Film director Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns) is already busy at work on the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid for the big screen, which Disney plans to start shooting in early 2020. Singer Halle Bailey (Grown-ish) has been cast in the eponymous role, although she's the only real casting confirmation we've gotten so far. If all the reports turn out to be true, Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Harry Styles (Prince Eric), Javier Bardem (King Triton), Awkwafina (Scuttle), and Jacob Tremblay (Flounder) will board the family-friendly project, too.
Alan Menken is returning to handle the music with a new partner in crime, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is helping to write brand-new songs.