You see, we princesses from the original fairytales are none too happy with the way all those “magical” storybooks and “classic”animated movies, not to mention all those “realistic” theme park shows portray us
— Snow White
“Give em’ hell” isn’t spoken or sung in the smart but also scalding musical spoof Disenchanted. But that is exactly what a coterie of resolute fairy tale princesses do with revenge-taking glee. And they do it with just thirteen uncompromisingly “Insane” (that’s also appropriately the name of one song) songs and skits.
They all mean business but without being mean-spirited for one-hundred hilarious minutes. What is conveyed right from the start by a bristling, brash Snow White (Michelle Knight), a gregariously ditsy Cinderella (Becky Gulsvig) and a self-effacing Sleeping Beauty (Jen Bechter) is “That all those films and fairy tales are driving us out of our freakin’ princess minds. ” To which Snow White the take-charge emcee of this vaudeville-styled revue responds, “And one more living happly after seems extreme, One more whistle while I work and I’m simply gonna scream!”Maybe these three as well as all of the damsels in distress still to enter into the fray, and they whom we have come to love, have finally realized that they really do have an ax to grind. But it isn’t necessarily with the well meaning princes, or for that matter any of their would-be spouses or saviors who were mostly and more innocently originated and characterized by the revered Brothers Grimm.
The skewering they have in mind and devised for them by the very gifted author/composer Dennis T. Giacino is aimed directly at the images of the classic heroines created in the Disney Corporations’ contemporary animated versions of the classic stories. Dennis T. Giacino, who not only wrote the blistering text but also all of the terrific songs along with their trenchant lyrics, has set the revue within a variety show format using as its theme “The Princess Complex.” Under the spirited direction of Fiely A. Matias, the center spotlight stays predominantly on paramount princess Snow White and her abetting side-kicks Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the latter, however, often caught taking naps between scenes are intent on taking umbrage to the images to which they have been tied. Other princesses who appear include Hua Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Princess Balroulbadour, and The Princess Who Kissed the Frog all of whom share such a common and contemporary issue as eating disorders with the highly acidic song “All I Wanna Do Is Eat.” The issues tackled may not be new or especially provocative, but there is no let-up to the brittle wit and savvy wisdom spread through by this grand musical show. Snow White, her lips never so red or her vitriol so redolent, serves as fiercely liberated firebrand emcee guiding and goading her newly empowered ensemble from one riotous number to the next. Lulu Picart has a job maintaining her equilibrium atop a flying carpet as Princess Badroulbadou, then in coming out as a Lesbian warrior princess Hua Mulan, and finally as a historically inaccurate Pocahontas. More laughs are heard as Alison Burns regrets giving up her fishy tail as a tipsy Little Mermaid, but she has nothing to regret as a take-charge Germanic Rapunzel who leads a funnily divided audience in a howl of a sing-a-long. Although Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty also get to show off their musicianship on one occasion playing respectively the triangle and the kazoo, cheers are due to the three-piece band, Michael Raabe, Bobby Brennan, and Gregg Monteith
. It is good to see how beautiful a small-ish show can look with a small-ish budget on a small-ish stage — greatly helped by Gentry Akens’s whimsical, colorful mobile set pieces . The revue’s six terrific performers (two of whom play multiple roles) have been sumptuously and cleverly costumed by designer Vanessa Leuck. Each has a lot to say and sing about body image, the acceptance of one’s sexuality, not to mention the awareness of their intelligence among other burning issues (as with the shaving of legs) with which women deal. Late in the show, but not too late to knock our blocks off, excitingly saucy Soara-Joye Ross makes an entrance as Disney’s first black princess the one “…Who kissed the Frog.” Even later comes Sleeping Beauty’s long awaited awakening or rather her embracing of her own less than drop-dead gorgeous body type in a show-stopper aptly named “Perfect.” This show was first presented as Bitches of the Kingdom at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2011 and subsequently at William Patterson University with its current title. No tongue-in-cheek is needed to see how essential it is for these stand-up-and-be-counted princesses to declare their independence from Disney as they are also able to affirm their need to create their own destiny. As for Disenchanted being kid friendly, I suspect that anyone passed puberty, and also anyone who doesn’t mind the current trend for singers to try and break the sound barrier, will be duly enchanted. ?