BY BRIAN SCOTT LIPTON
In the age of “Frozen” and ABC’s “Once Upon a Time, ” fairy tale heroines are beginning to be looked at as stronger and more independent than ever before. However, the totally disarming new Off-Broadway musical “Disenchanted,” now at the Theatre at St. Clements, is upping those stakes even further, as a parade of princesses come forward to set the record straight in no uncertain terms
. Indeed, this 90-minute “royal vaudeville” (as one of the characters calls it) could almost be called “Forbidden Disney,” as author Dennis T. Giacino takes on the house that Walt built with arrows flying. Actually, his weapon of choice is his caustic and often clever lyrics, sung by everyone from Snow White (the extraordinarily strong-voiced Michelle Knight) and Cinderella (the deliriously dim Becky Gulsvig) to Tiana (the sassy Soara-Joye Ross). And these lovely ladies are here to dispel every myth you’ve ever heard or seen about them, starting with the reality of their so-called happy endings in “One More Happ’ly Ever After.” Most of the songs concentrate on comedy – both high and exceedingly low. (I’m not sure it was really necessary or wise to include the un-family-friendly “Big Tits”). And no one in this super-talented sextet is funnier than Alison Burns, who brilliantly embodies a straight-jacketed Belle (“Insane”), a slightly regretful Ariel (“Two Legs”), and a Germanic Rapunzel who would fit right into a remake of “The Night Porter” (“Not V One Red Cent.”). Jen Bechter is also a hoot as a rather ribald and unconventional Sleeping Beauty, who gets to finally share her own declaration of self-worth (“Perfect”). Occasionally, the musical’s tone turns slightly serious, as when the versatile Lulu Picart as Pocahontas asks why Disney altered her story, changing her from an innocent teen to a man-hungry well-endowed young woman (“Honestly.”) And there are messages worth listening to for women of any era in group numbers such as “All I Want to Do Is Eat” and the finale, “Once Upon a Time.” Director Fiely A. Matias and musical stager Matt West make the most of a fairly minimal production (though costume designer Vanessa Lueck adds a few very fun touches), and the three-piece orchestra manages to fill the house with sound. But these ladies are so good, they could probably make “Disenchanted” work all on their own.
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Opening 12/4/2014 Closing 1/25/2015
Theatre at St Clement’s 423 West 46th Street Neighborhood: West 40s New York, NY 10036