Monday, December 8, 2014

Disenchanted @ The Theater at St. Clements

In Disenchanted, an unrelentingly hilarious musical offering at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, some of the most beloved fairy tale princesses have a few choice words to share about their happily every afters.

This musical comedy is hosted by the sassiest of them all, Snow White (Michelle Knight), the ditziest at the ball, Cinderella (Becky Gulsvig), and the most outrageous of narcoleptic royalty, Sleeping Beauty (Jen Bechter).  We learn from them and many other popular princess guest stars that being a princess isn’t all it’s made up to be, and that “One More Happ’ly Ever After” is all it might take to send this very diverse group of strong female royalty over the edge Thelma and Louise style.

Let’s be clear, from the first number, there is no doubt that any of these women can hold their own vocally, each being a powerhouse in their own right.  Knight delivers a belting Snow White so full of attitude it’s hard to believe she’d ever just sit and wait for her Prince to come.  Gulsvig’s Chenno-esque turn as the bright (yet not the brightest candle in the castle) Cinderella displayed excellent timing and a fantastic contrast from Snow.  Of the three hostesses, however, it was Bechter’s booty-shaking, curvy, and super-confident Sleeping Beauty that really gave the show more heart than anyone could have expected.

Lulu Picart’s performance as Hua Mulan may have been one of the most uproariously and consistently funny performances in the show, beginning with a one-on-one with the audience about being the only princess who’s “Without the Guy.”  As both Pocahontas and Princess Badroulbadour (whose costume was a masterpiece among masterpieces designed by Vanessa Leuck) Picart provided insightful and entertaining glimpses at the characters’ opinions on their Disneyfication.  Alison Burns gave strong and varied performances switching between Belle, driven mad by singing utensils, Rapunzel, who wields a riding crop while singing of being pimped out by Disney, and the Little Mermaid, who enjoys her beer almost as much as she hates her decision to trade her fins for six-inch heels.  Last, but definitely not least, Soara-Joye Ross’ talent as the Princess Who Kissed the Frog shines as she rejoices that “Finally” there’s a Black princess.  Perhaps the only true disappointment is how little the show actually utilizes Ross’ talent.

Overall, the musical uses comedic numbers to address notable problems in the Disneyified fairy tales, many stemming from diversity.  The show tackles everything from historical inaccuracy in Pocahontas’ “Honestly,” to the constant problem of body-image standards in the group number “All I Wanna Do is Eat.” Any topic is fair game, and the message rarely bogs down the performance by being too heavy - thanks to Dennis T. Giacino’s well-balanced book, music, and lyrics.

In the end, Disenchanted is a fun comedic piece, but one that carries a message that happily ever after might just be a little more complicated than one might think, and that every princess is perfect, no matter how unique she is.

Review By: Jacob R. Hines
Photos By: Matthew Murphy

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