Pathetic? Not Melissa McCarthy.
Much has been written about Halle Bailey’s siren-like vocals as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” but it shouldn’t drown out McCarthy’s splashy showing in the upcoming film.
The “Bridesmaids” and “Mike & Molly” star plays the spellbinding villain Ursula and delivers the groundbreaking sea witch’s signature song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
On Thursday, Disney unveiled a clip of McCarthy’s breathy rendition of the deal-making dirge, which both manipulates and enables Bailey’s mermaid princess to transform into a human. McCarthy’s Ursula builds on the burlesque style of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic, but adds her own sardonic touch. (Ashman also revised the lyrics so that the song wouldn’t make young girls feel as if they couldn’t speak out of turn.)
The comedy star, who has sparingly sung onscreen, debuted her version of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last month, where the two-time Oscar nominee was awarded the convention’s Cinema Véritê Award. She recently told Yahoo that she was apprehensive about taking on the infamous song.
“It was terrifying. Insane,” McCarthy said. “I was like, ‘Why am I doing this? What am I doing?’”
Even though she was really nervous and couldn’t “shake off the nerves,” the “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” star said she still had a good time figuring it out. And a lot of it had to do with getting out of her own way.
“[My vocal coach] said, ‘Well, you’re trying to sing really well as Melissa, and that’s never gonna happen.’ I was like, ‘OK, that’s getting right to it,’” she said.
“And he goes, ‘No, you’re not, you’re not doing the role as you, but you’re singing as you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh.’ So then I knew how Ursula could sing. I couldn’t possibly sing it as myself. So that really helped. But it was terrifying, but so fun. My God, so fun.”
Ursula was famously voiced by the late Pat Carroll in the 1989 animated feature. Carroll said she modeled the vampy character after drag performer Divine, who was best known for working with queer filmmaker John Waters. And actor-musician Queen Latifah took on the meaty role in ABC’s “The Little Mermaid Live!” and was dubbed “the best part” of the ill-received 2019 production. (Grammy winner Lizzo also cast her rod to play Ursula in the remake, but ultimately lost out to McCarthy.)
“The Little Mermaid” — and McCarthy’s full number — hits theaters next Friday.