Disenchanted!

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Theater Review by Samuel L. Leiter

 

Parents! Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas, and a few other girly icons are on colorful display in the new Off Broadway musical, Disenchanted! However, if you’re thinking of bringing your little lassie to this campy, revisionist view of fairytale princesses, you may want to think again. Disenchanted! is a spirited, raunchy, sometimes very funny, but also heavy-handed, show; its feminist viewpoint trashes princess-in-distress passivity, in which some Prince Charming always comes along to do the heavy lifting. Hey, if you don’t mind hearing your tiny princess singing about “Big Tits” as she leaves the theatre, this could be the family entertainment you’re looking for.

Disenchanted!—book, music, and lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino—is a revue calling itself a musical comedy. In charge of the proceedings are a ditzy Cinderella (Becky Gulsvig), a zaftig Sleeping Beauty (Jen Bechter), and their leader, a take-no-prisoners Snow White (Michelle Knight, who created the role in 2011 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival). All are terrific, but Knight is sensational.

These singing, dancing, shtick-wielding emcees get their own big numbers (directed by Fiely A. Matias, with musical staging by Matt West), and, in between comedy bits, introduce each of the other characters. Their stage, designed by Gentry Akens, suggests a variety show, with a painted false proscenium resembling red velour fronting a curtain-like background of vertical satin strips. Vanessa Lueck’s fabulously over-the-top costumes and wigs make a spectacular contribution, including a memorably clever rig for an Arabian princess that makes her look like she’s floating on a magic carpet.

Because Cinderella is so clueless (even though stereotypically dumb blondes don’t make the best case for female empowerment) she declares all must end by “mid-night” instead of “midnight,” meaning 8:40 for a 7:00 show. During those 100 minutes we’re presented with an uninterrupted sequence of satirical numbers sung in a variety of pleasantly familiar, but only occasionally distinctive styles, accompanied by a three-man band. The lyrics, like the jokes, range from smart and sassy to silly and sophomoric.

The premise is that Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella are sick and tired of those “vapid” stories, movies, and theme parks in which they’re perpetually beautiful and live happily ever after; instead—citing Thelma and Louise—they’d rather die, if only they can be free! Resorting to the hoariest of puns, Snow White asks: “Do I look like I need to wait for my prince . . . (BEAT) to come?” There are enough similarly wink-wink hijinks in the words and performances to alarm any ophthalmologists in the audience.

The other victims of the Princess Complex are: Beauty and the Beast’s Belle (Alison Burns), strait-jacketed and singing “Insane!” because everything around her is alive; Hua Mulan, the Chinese heroine, played by delicious dumpling Lulu Picart, confessing in “Without the Guy” that she’s a lesbian; the Little Mermaid (Alison Burns), belting “Two Legs” while tossing off fishy puns that get stuck in your throat (“just for the halibut”) while regretting giving up her fins for a pair of legs; Pocahontas (Lulu Picart), complaining in “Honestly” about her story being overly glamorized; Rapunzel (Alison Burns), a longhaired German dominatrix, performing “Not V’one Red Cent,” and ordering the audience to sing on cue because she never received royalties for Rapunzel-inspired products; Princess Badroulbadour (Lulu Picart), a.k.a. Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin, kvetching about being a “Secondary Princess”; and the Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Soara-Joye Royce), a black beauty rejoicing in breaking the princess color barrier in “Finally.” Eventually, Sleeping Beauty wakes up to sing “Perfect,” celebrating physical imperfection, while rounding out the show are “All I Wanna Do Is Eat” about how hard it is to stay slim; “A Happy Time,” a feminist ditty using a triangle and kazoo to bleep out the naughty words; and the grand finale, “Once Upon a Time,” summing everything up.

Great voices, vivacious personalities, and ogle-worthy costumes: 10. A buoyant, upbeat, but derivative score: 7.5. An erratically humorous book with overly obvious jokes, jokily performed: 6. Total Score: 7.8. Still enough enchantment to make a visit to Disenchanted! worth considering.

Disenchanted!

Theatre at St. Clement’s

423 W. 46th Street

Open run

 

 

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