Hearing Halle Bailey sing left 'The Little Mermaid' cast 'completely overcome'
Jonah Hauer-King was in the middle of rehearsals for Disney's "The Little Mermaid" when he heard a voice ring out from another area of the soundstage. When he realized who the voice belonged to, the English actor pulled what can only be described as a Prince Eric move.
"I said, 'I'm sorry, I know I've got to be somewhere right now,'" recalled Hauer-King, who plays Eric in the live-action remake. "'I'm going in there, and I'm listening.'"
With that, the onscreen prince set off in search of his princess, Halle Bailey, who was busy rehearsing Ariel's showstopping ballad, "Part of Your World." Much like his character, Hauer-King was enamored with Bailey's voice from the first time he heard her sing.
"It is the most special thing ever," he told the L.A. Times at the world premiere of "The Little Mermaid" in Los Angeles.
"Her voice is just sensational. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. It's the perfect voice and the perfect person."
Hauer-King was among several "Little Mermaid" cast members who vividly remembered watching and listening in awe as Bailey practiced Ariel's dynamic solo from the musical film about a young mermaid who dreams of becoming human.
Unlike other actors who have been tapped to play live-action Disney princesses, Bailey had already launched a successful career as a Grammy-nominated singer — one half of sister-duo Chloe x Halle — before she was cast as the rebellious daughter of King Triton.
As a result, the marketing campaign for the new "Little Mermaid" has heavily spotlighted Bailey's vocals. Each trailer for the remake has featured Bailey's sweeping renditions of "Part of Your World" and its reprise. The studio also strategically released her full version of the song to widespread acclaim a month before opening weekend.
During a recent Disney-themed episode of "American Idol," ABC aired footage of Bailey singing "Part of Your World" live at Disneyland, where she flawlessly belted high notes that don't exist in the original tune.
But according to her co-stars, nothing quite compares to hearing Bailey perform the quintessential "I Want" anthem in person.
Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula the sea witch, recounted the moment when "Little Mermaid" director Rob Marshall prompted Bailey to "sing a little bit of your thing" for her castmates early in the rehearsal process.
"She probably wasn't even really singing it ... she just kind of was marking it," McCarthy added. "It was so strangely beautiful. And then I was completely overcome, and I burst out crying, and I was like, 'She's gonna think I'm nuts.'"
The impromptu performance gave Jacob Tremblay goosebumps and brought his mom — who was young when the cartoon "Little Mermaid" came out in 1989 — to tears.
"It was amazing because it was just rehearsal and she so effortlessly sang something that was so beautiful," said Tremblay, who voices Ariel's aquatic sidekick, Flounder.
"It really blew everyone away."
While an "overwhelmed" McCarthy resisted the urge to hug Bailey (because "that would be weird"), Tremblay approached the seasoned performer with a question: "How do you do that?" he asked. "Especially ... in front of all those people — I'd be so nervous."
Bailey taught her young scene partner the oldest trick in the book.
"She tells me that ... she pictures everyone naked," Tremblay said. "She made me feel very comfortable."
In addition to classics such as "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea," a few new songs composed by Alan Menken and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda are also included in Disney's re-imagining of "The Little Mermaid." Noma Dumezweni, who plays Queen Selina, got a sneak peek of Bailey running through one of the added numbers during rehearsals.
"I remember going, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I'm witnessing this,'" Dumezweni told the L.A. Times.
"Voices like Halle's are divine and divinely sent for us all to enjoy."