Fast-paced, funny, and fiercely feminine, Disenchanted! reintroduces audiences to some of Disney's most beloved -- and lucrative -- characters: the Princesses. Led by Snow White and her constant sidekicks Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the musical comedy offers a glimpse beyond "happily ever after."
After years of being stuck at the point of marriage to their princes, these girls have decided to go rogue and set the record straight, sharing their stories directly with the audience. The sharply written an often hilarious send up mixes fairy tale with fact and modern life. The approach allows the princesses to have thoughts of their own that transcend the stereotypical messages of beauty and obedience they've so often been used to sell. We soon learn that Prince Charming isn't perfect, and animals, household objects, and random winds constantly seeking your attention can get old quicker than you can say bippity boppity boo.
The show was first conceived when history teacher Dennis T. Giacino wondered what the "real" Pocahontas, an inquisitive ten-year-old tomboy according to most historians, would think of her decidedly grown up Disney version. This question led to an exploration of the other princesses, and soon these girls were sneaking out of their castles and taking Disenchanted!, a perceptively comic look at life after the storybook ending, on the road.
The show is filed with clever lyrics and choreography, as well as twisted humor that leans adult and a touch risqué, but always in good fun. The script approaches its subject matter with a light touch, ensuring it's appropriate for a wide audience, and even more mature teens will laugh knowingly, while benefitting from the affirming message. These princesses have a bone or two to pick, but they're empowered not bitter. It's an important distinction because the show maintains a positive girl power attitude and avoids turning mean spirited.
The strong ensemble includes: Madison Tinder, as the perky and precise princess in charge Snow White the night I attended, though the part is usually played by Merritt Crews. Tinder has a strong voice and reveled in the moments when she could stretch out a note or two to comic effect. Madison Hayes Crook is goofy adorable as a ditzy, cheerful Cinderella, bringing a certain spunk reminiscent of the heroines in Clueless to her part. Daniella Richards is engaging and a little snarky as a curvy, rebellious Sleeping Beauty. Her enthusiasm and mischievous nature is infectious.
The supporting roles are no less inspired. Cherise Thomas, as Tiana, the Princess Who Kissed the Frog, has one of the most overtly empowering songs and she makes you want to get out of your seat and dance. Miriam Drysdale brings the house down as a drunken The Little Mermaid in sparkling Daisy Duke shorts as well as a psychologically bent Belle and uber-German Rapunzel. Finally, Ann Paula Bautista shows kick ass joie de vie and spot on interpretation as the "might be a lesbian" Mulan, the suddenly grown-up Pocahontas, and the magic carpet riding Baldroulbadour, the one we call Jasmine, with a song that is as hilarious as it is informative.
The character send-ups are hilarious, but still charming, and the lyrics humorously point out the generalizations and unrealistic expectations the movies have encouraged over the years. There are also plenty of melodic nods to the tendencies of cartoonists and storytellers to maximize looks and an empty happy ending and minimize reality or the strengths of these women, though most are based on long established characters or historic figures.
The cumulative effect is a surprisingly uplifting and emotionally empowering tribute to women of all shapes, sizes, and cultures, and a call to embrace the princess that lives in all girls. The songs are Broadway style, filled with harmonies and challenging vocal runs that highlight the skill and versatility of the talented ensemble. And every touch, from the teasingly sexy costumes, to the assisting hands of a certain famous mouse, to their animal friends and talking mirrors, adds just the right nuance to add to the laughter and fun.
Sharp, but with a kind edge, Disenchanted! is a delightfully upbeat girl power musical. Unfortunately, the show at the Playhouse at Westport has been cursed with a short run. If you're in the mood to get a mighty princess complex of your own, you'll want to get your tickets right away.