By LIZ BYRON. Haven’t you ever wondered what happened to Sleeping Beauty after she married her Prince Charming? I mean, let’s think about this for a second. She was supposed to have fallen into her “death-like sleep” at the age of 16, right? And then Princely McPerfect comes along and kisses her, she wakes up, they fall in love, la la la, they lived happily ever after. But are we really saying her story is over before she’s even old enough to vote? What about the next sixty-ish years of her life? Are they that boring that they aren’t even worth mentioning? Well, wonder no more — there’s a new show in town that will teach you what comes after “happily ever after” — and it’s not some crummy sequel that doesn’t even use the same voice actors. No, I’m talking about Disenchanted! A New Musical Comedy That Gives Fairy Tales the Bird.
Now, I was never super into the Disney princesses; my mother likes to remind me of the day that my five-year-old self asked her, “But mum, if Cinderella’s step-mother is so mean to her, why doesn’t she just move to the city and get a job?” So this show is right up my alley. But no matter how you feel about the portrayal of women in The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, you will laugh at Disenchanted! at least once, and probably way more than that.
Dennis C Giacino, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the show, artfully blends clever wit, slapstick, sarcasm, innuendo, and downright silliness to create a show that is constantly entertaining, but is anchored with a very real criticism of the “princess complex”; an ideal in which women must meet unattainable beauty standards but not have any individuality, intelligence, or goals beyond being rescued by a handsome (rich) stranger and getting married. Hey, nothing against marriage (writes the married lady), but it probably shouldn’t be a person’s only life ambition.
Lead by powerhouse Jen Burleigh-Bentz as a slightly older, more bitter Snow White who emcees for the evening, Disenchanted! introduces an array of princesses who are alternately grumpy, exasperated, bitter, outraged, sad, and outspoken. Bonni Allen is hilarious as the well-intentioned but ditzy Cinderella, who seems to be Snow White’s right-hand woman, which is an important role since the third “host” of the evening is Sleeping Beauty, who is frequently, well… sleeping (kudos to Katherine Tieben Holt for managing to sing while looking sleepy; that’s probably not as easy as she makes it looks).
The three hosts welcome a roster of other princesses who take turns explaining their plight: Hua Mulan tells the truth about why she’s the only princess without a guy, Pocahontas wants to know why her true story got told in such an untrue way, and Princess Badroulbadour (AKA Jasmine) is angry that she’s basically just a prop; all three are played by the bewitching and versatile Stephanie Bertuman. Belle is going batty, the Little Mermaid is regretful, and Rapunzel is… well, you’ll have to see her for yourself; those three are played by Kim Kivens, whose physical style is captivating. And last but not least, the Princess Who Kissed the Frog (a powerful and talented Joy Dolo) wants to know why it took so damn long to have a black princess.
Overall this is a highly entertaining, laugh-inducing production. Musical director Lori Dokken adds her own flair, not just with the flawless, well-paced music accompaniment, but by becoming part of the production – not blending into the background, but interacting with the cast with a perfect poker face. Scenic designer Holly Windingstad‘s set is just whimsical enough to fit in with the fairy tale theme, but is subtle enough not to detract from the action on stage. Finally, hats off to producer/director Michael Bergren for pulling it all together.
Disenchanted! is entertaining and clever, with strong musical performances to boot. But be warned – this show is rated PG-13 and I would hesitate to take even 13-year-olds; this isn’t a princess show for little girls! The Disenchanted! princesses don’t hesitate to sing about mature content. But I definitely recommend this show for all adults!
Disenchanted! by Dennis C Giacino, performed by Casting Spells Productions. October 31-November 23, 2014 at the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis MN. Tickets $24-38 ($4 off students & seniors; group rates available) by calling (612) 339-4944 or at http://www.illusiontheater.org