'Little Mermaid in Concert' Caps Hollywood Bowl Run With Original Ariel

MUSICAL LEGACY: "The Little Mermaid" (1989)
Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection

"I learned as I did it," says Menken of scoring "The Little Mermaid," which won two Oscars.

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 Monday night.

Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, headlined the show and was welcomed to the stage with thunderous applause from an audience filled with Disney devotees. (Bareilles starred as Ariel and 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 film including “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), 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’s Glee in 2010, and even before he went viral with A Very Potter Musical in 2009.

“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." Criss told Billboard. "[It was] a real-life, Disney dreams-come-true experience.”

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 Disney's Aladdin, turned up in the pre-show to warm up the crowd with Aladdin’s “One Jump Ahead” (complete with a somersault) 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 for a duet of Aladdin’s Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit, “A Whole New World.”

This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.