Disney's 'Little Mermaid in Concert' caps Hollywood Bowl run with original Ariel, Jodi Benson

The Little Mermaid Live: 5 Must-Watch Highlights from Inside the Hollywood Bowl
The Little Mermaid Live: 5 Must-Watch Highlights from Inside the Hollywood Bowl

After the first two show-stopping nights of Disney's The Little Mermaid in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl -- featuring Sara Bareilles, Rebel Wilson and Darren Criss -- the production upped the ante for its third and final performance on June 6.

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Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, headlined the third show, and was welcomed to the stage with thunderous applause from an audience filled with Disney devotees. (Bareilles starred as Ariel in the first two shows, but was not on hand for the third. Benson was a surprise guest at the first two shows.) Benson and the celebrity guest cast performed the film's familiar songs as the movie unspooled on the big screens in the Bowl, accompanied by a 71-piece orchestra. In addition to beloved numbers from the movie like "Part of Your World," "Kiss the Girl" and the Academy Award-winning "Under the Sea," the show was augmented with songs from its Tony Award-nominated stage musical adaptation.

Watching Benson singing "Part of Your World" was especially poignant for Criss (who played Ariel's beau, Prince Eric, at the Bowl), as it was the very first cover song he uploaded to YouTube back in 2007. That was years before he got his big break on Fox TV's Glee in 2010, and even before he went viral with A Very Potter Musical in 2009.

Criss tells Billboard, "That video unexpectedly set me on a wild course that I never could have dreamed would eventually bring me to the side of the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, listening to the original voice of Ariel herself, Disney Legend Jodi Benson, performing that same song live before my very damp eyes. ...; [It was] a real-life, Disney dreams-come-true experience."

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Before the main event started, the crowd was treated to a mini-concert featuring some very special guests: Brad Kane and Susan Egan. Kane, the original voice of Aladdin (from the film of the same name) turned up in the pre-show to warm up -- and wow -- the crowd with Aladdin's "One Jump Ahead" (complete with a somersault at the end of the song) and "Proud of Your Boy" (a song cut from the film). Egan (who played Hercules' Meg and originated the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway) stopped by to perform "I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" from Hercules, accompanied by her Muses, and "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast.

Lastly, the two performers joined together (and wondered out loud if Aladdin and Belle would have perhaps fallen for one another in a different time and place), and then duetted on Aladdin's Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit "A Whole New World."

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