Sunday, February 25, 2018
Stage

Review: 'Disenchanted!' gives Disney princesses snappy attitude

Call your girlfriends, don your best plastic tiara and make sure to get to the theater with enough time to buy a glass of wine before Disenchanted!, the sassy retort of disgruntled Disney princesses.

Apparently "happily ever after" isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Every young girl has had a taste of the poison apple that is the Disney princess fantasy, but now this musical has arrived in Tampa like Gloria Steinem on a white horse with a message: Women don't need a knight in shining armor to save them. In fact, he tends to make things worse.

Snow White (Michelle Knight) serves as the emcee for this jaunt down memory lane with her cohorts Cinderella (Breanne Pickering) and Sleeping Beauty (Becca McCoy). They're here to tell us – in perfect harmony – why this tale as old as time needs an update.

Knight originated the role of Snow White in 2011 when Disenchanted! premiered at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, which could have been a risky endeavor in a town beholden to Walt for turning a swampy stretch of central Florida into the most lucrative tourist attraction in the world.

But don't start a bonfire with the movies that defined your childhood just yet. Just make a note to tell your daughter that she shouldn't give up her unique qualities (like her voice or her fin) to net a man. Plus, glass slippers are impractical anyway.

The 140-minute show is structured like a cabaret in the intimate Jaeb Theater, with each song featuring one of the princesses and how "The Princess Complex" has taken its toll. The space is ideal for the off-the-cuff improv with the audience that Knight, Pickering and Lulu Picart (Mulan/Pocahontas/Princess Badroulbadour) are so good at, although the cafe table seating requires an odd-numbered group to make new friends fast.

The highlights stem from the itchy inconsistencies in the movies that are effectively swept under the rug by happy endings and grandiose finale songs. Princess Badroulbadour, a.k.a Jasmine, reminds us that she's the only princess who has to play second fiddle to a man. Mulan makes a convincing argument for why she's the only princess whose story doesn't end with a carriage ride into the sunset with her prince. Belle, played by understudy Kali Rabaut, makes the so-obvious-it's-hilarious point that despite living in a "poor provincial town" in France, she has a lovely American accent.

The softball jokes seem like filler in comparison to these more poignant revelations. The 5-minute song about the Barbie doll proportions male illustrators have bestowed on our fair princess could be pared down, and the ensemble number with a German flare Not V'One Red Cent leaves you pondering the etymology of the saying rather than rolling in the aisles.

The understated feminist thread throughout the show is that the cast is carried entirely by women. It's apparent that the ensemble has chemistry even in the early days of the show's long run, and the company numbers featuring big brassy belters alongside soaring sopranos will make any girl forget about Prince Charming.

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