Halle Bailey's The Little Mermaid Audition Brought Its Director To Tears

It's been over three decades since 1989's "The Little Mermaid" premiered in theaters. This was the beginning of the Disney Renaissance in animation and a new era of Disney princesses. The story of the mermaid who wanted to forge her own path and live differently than the rest of her family is a classic of animation, and we're about to get a live-action version of the story based on the 1837 tale from Hans Christian Andersen. Things will be a bit different in this new telling, with star Halle Bailey saying that Ariel's story will have a more modern sensibility. That is to say that Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) will not be the only reason for the drastic decision the mermaid makes to forgo her fins and get legs instead. 

From even the small clips we've seen and heard from the film, it's clear that Bailey has an absolutely lovely voice (like Jodi Benson, who voiced the role in the animated film). Perhaps you already know that from her work with her sister as Chloe x Halle. In fact, according to a recent feature in Variety, it was one of her performances in the duo act that attracted the attention of the live-action film's director Rob Marshall ("Chicago"). He saw the Baileys perform "Where is the Love?" during the 2019 Grammys and asked Halle to audition. The song he wanted to hear was, of course, "Part of Your World." It brought him to tears. The song alone is beautiful, but adding in her stunning voice ... I will fully admit to tearing up myself as I watched the teaser. 

It's doubly stunning because Bailey was only 18 during that fateful audition. 

'I was in tears because she's so soulful'

Though the site says Marshall loved her voice, it was more than that. He said, "Halle had this incredible facility to be able to dig deep, find the truth of Ariel's passion and her heart. It was like watching a great film actor being born." If you have somehow managed to live your entire life without hearing "Part of Your World," it's full of emotion and pathos but also excitement. The song is a rendition of what it's like to be a young person discovering that there is more to existence than what they learned from their parents and friends. It's a longing to see what's out there and to experience life in a new way. 

The song was written for the animated film by Alan Menken with lyrics from Howard Ashman. It's classified as an "I Want" song, which has the main character sing about what they hope to accomplish or wish for. Marshall saw Ariel in Bailey right away. He said: 

"When she finished, I was in tears because she's so soulful. You could tell right away that she was able to harness Ariel's passion, her fire, her soul, her joy, and her heart."

Less than three months to go before we see "The Little Mermaid" starring Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian the crab, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle. Alan Menken returns to co-write the soundtrack with Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

"The Little Mermaid" will swim into theaters on May 26, 2023.