Snow White is bossy. Cinderella is a ditzy dim bulb. Sleeping Beauty not only sleeps a lot but snores. Belle is going nuts from talking to inanimate objects. Mulan likes girls.
Just what kind of Disney movie do these people think they’re in? Well, in Dennis T. Giacino’s Disenchanted, playing at Creative Cauldron, they’ve been there, done that, and had their fill.
Very much an off-Broadway style “revue” – Snow White (Candice Shedd-Thompson), who frequently acts as a narrator, says so herself – with a highly permeable fourth wall, pop culture references aplenty, and a knowingly cheeky attitude, Disenchanted is a hoot from start to finish, exactly 90 minutes later, as the characters sporadically remind us. The characters, supplied with Giacino’s witty, often rapid-fire, lyrics, take on the tropes from the Disney princess movie repertory – “happily ever after” with the local prince etc. – one after another.
Take the relationship of a princess to food. Abstinence evidently makes the heart grow fonder, and the cravings of princesses depriving themselves in the quest to keep a waistline the size of their necks are on display during “All I Wanna Do Is Eat.” Cinderella (Molly Rumberger) leads the group, having a near-orgasmic reaction to a Hershey’s kiss.
Then there’s body image. How to be a successful princess? Easy – just have “Big Tits.” Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (Karen Kelleher), and Pocahontas (Sally Horton) illustrate the principle with significant help from the props department, who provide illuminated milk jugs, bongo drums, and, to emphatically drive home the point, sharply conical traffic cones. On the other hand, if you’re zaftig, like Sleeping Beauty, do you even get to sing your own song? She finally does, and it’s “Perfect.”
Amber A. Gibson does triple duty as Belle, going “Insane” from too much chatter by utensils; the Little Mermaid, disgruntlement with her “Two Legs” leading her to drink a bit much; and a stereotypically Teutonic Rapunzel. Not Gibson’s fault, but Rapunzel’s “Not One Red Cent,” including an unnecessarily prolonged audience participation segment, is the show’s weakest number.
It falls to Sally Horton’s characters to address the cultural appropriation and historical distortion characteristic of the Disney ouvre. In “Honestly,” probably the show’s most serious song, Pocahontas decries the film legend that made her historical self – 10 years old at the time – into a romantic partner of John Smith. Badroulbadour resents playing second fiddle (“Secondary Princess’) to a guy rubbing a lamp, who originates in another culture, to boot. Most noticeably, Mulan, the one Disney princess who winds up “Without the Guy,” declares – why not? – that she’s a lesbian. Not only a lesbian but one with a thing for Cinderella and a bit of prurient interest in Snow White.
The last to appear is The Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Ashley K. Nicholas), celebrating that “Finally” one of the Disney films saw fit to include a Black heroine. Like everyone in the ensemble, she sings with power, clarity, and a strong sense of character.
The costumes, designed by Margie Jervis, were a principal merit of the production. Nice examples include Mulan in black faux oriental, the Mermaid in fishnet stockings (of course), Cinderella in a pale blue dress with an excessively poofy skirt, Pocahontas in a too-brief (as the character comments) movie Indian outfit, Badroulbadour wearing (!) a flying carpet, and The Princess Who Kissed the Frog in a glamorous shiny gold gown.
Jervis’ set is simple; a series of green platforms festooned with a half-dozen potted topiary ball arrays. Director Matt Conner places much of the action on the floor in front of the platforms, as the actors get to engage the audience directly on frequent occasions. This is a good props show (props also by Jervis), with not only the “Big Tits” accessories but a bevy of mirrors, fans composed of currency, crowns, swords, and fish adding to the glee. Elisa Rosman not only does her usual fine job leading the band, but gets to have the occasional wink and nod with the actors.
Disenchanted’s satire of Disney movie clichés is spot-on without being heavy-handed. The feminist themes involved in deconstructing those clichés are likewise handled with a light touch. This show considers fairy tales and their discontents as a source of fun, and it does so delightfully. You want a more profound consideration of fairy tale material that creates moments of deep, touching emotion? Wait until next June, when Creative Cauldron mounts Stephen Sondheim’s great Into the Woods.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.