This spin-off from The Little Mermaid should be a big hit. It has the energy of the Disney movie, but not the story line (scantily clad adolescent runs away from home to romance unknown foreign royal). Happily, Sebastian is all music. And at a time when reggae is everywhere — I just saw a reggae-themed commercial for a laundry bleach — Sebastian‘s music even sounds authentic. The collection features Samuel E. Wright, reprising his Mermaid role as the voice of Sebastian the calypso crab. Gravelly yet melodious, Wright-as-Sebastian is an original, friendly but not fatherly. He is so deeply immersed in his role that he actually sounds more crablike than human. Backed by the reggae group Third World, Wright does fine covers of Jimmy Cliff’s ”You Can Get It if You Really Want,” Bob Marley’s ”Three Little Birds,” and Alphonsus Cassell’s spicy ”Hot, Hot, Hot.”
The only song from the Mermaid soundtrack is the Academy Award winning ”Under the Sea.” Jodi Benson, the voice of the Mermaid herself, sings two numbers. They’re not bad, but I could have done without the lame, fake-sounding dialogue between the Mermaid and Sebastian (”Oh, Sebastian, your music! It’s so wonderful!”). Tell us something we don’t know.
These 11 songs seem to celebrate Jamaica, but their real subject is Disney’s underwater Mermaid kingdom. When an imaginative world seems this real, it’s because your own imagination has been so firmly engaged. Plus, you’ll tap your feet — no matter how small or big they are. A