In Disenchanted, with book, music, and lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino, Snow White leads a group of our favorite fairy tale princesses in a cabaret of musical numbers about their lives, which are decidedly different then what certain movies would have us believe. It is a bawdy and uproarious parody of all the fairy tale characters and movies that we know and love, with a healthy dose of much needed female empowerment.
Director Adam Gardner-Northrop and music director Matt Travis have assembled a stellar cast of women, led by Snow White (Tara Besso Ell) whose amazing vocals and comedic chops left the audience cheering and laughing each time she was onstage. She was matched in both of those departments by two other well known princesses, Cinderella (Emily Rupp) and Sleeping Beauty (Danessa Hellus). Initially, I was a bit confused which one of the characters was the ditzy, flighty one and which was the weird, quirky one; each had moments of both, but throughout the show the two solidly settled into their respective roles.
The actors mentioned above had the most stage time to allow us to really see who their characters were and build on their comedic moments. The more difficult job was undertaken by Brooke Gomez and Meagan Eager who each played THREE different princesses in musical numbers scattered throughout the show. Eager was especially effective as the Little Mermaid, who is sick of living as a human with legs and longs to be back in the sea with all her fishy friends and who deals with those feelings with alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol. She also had smaller, hilarious moments as Belle and Rapunzel, making each character so different from the other that if the audience wasn’t so close, we might not know they were all the same person. Gomez had her own set of acting challenges, playing Mulan, Pocahontas, and Princess Badroulbadour (or Jasmine for us non-literary folk). Every song Gomez sang had at least one moment where the singing would have to stop in order to wait for the audience to stop laughing, the highest compliment to give for a show like this.
Later in the show, we meet the Frog Princess (Lois Elizabeth Reeves) who is so excited to FINALLY be the first African American princess. Her late arrival in the show is a not so subtle comment on a certain studio known for taking way too many years to introduce a princess that wasn’t some shade of white. I almost wish the show had introduced this character earlier because she had so many clever moments and a voice that equals her other powerhouse singing sisters.
The performances by all six women equally aided the fast paced timing in the show and made each joke and character interaction stand out to the audience. However, because of the pace being so breakneck, at times it became difficult to understand what was being said, particularly in the musical numbers. The lyrics are all very funny, but I fear some of them were lost when not clearly articulated.
The set, with a bar onstage for audience members to buy drinks from before the show and during intermission, was a great cabaret-style stage, with a slight twist. Designer Evan Lewis put the stage and the bar on angles, making for lots of interesting stage pictures, but unfortunately creating some sightline issues when characters would be behind the bar (especially from my seat on the right side of the audience). Lighting by Jared Mowbray set the tone very early on of a glitzy, sparkly show and kept things new and visually striking through each moment and introduction of a new princess. The costumes, designed by Caitlin Eldred, all included small touches of things we fondly remember from fairy tale stories, but each with a modern twist, whether it be Snow White with her familiar color scheme topped off with a leather jacket or Mulan with her masculine looking clothing, hinting at something that Mulan has been curious about in her life (no spoilers). Kudos also to wig designer Sarah Harrington, particularly with actors playing several roles with quite a few quick changes. The band, with Jantz Black on piano, Ryan Fitzgerald on bass, and Loren Kranz on drums, overpowered the cast in a few of the songs early on in the show, but the sound design by Dan Hubbell throughout was top notch.
Disenchanted is the perfect show to escape the winter blues and have FUN. Leave the kids at home and enjoy a little adult time, clapping, singing, and definitely laughing. Just remember, this isn’t your mother’s fairytale.
Center Stage Theatre’s production of Disenchanted will be on stage at Midland Center for the Arts Jan. 13, 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m.; and Jan. 14 and 21 at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $26 and are available at midlandcenter.org, at the Center Ticket Office or by calling 800-523-7649. Sponsored by ACE Hardware of Midland. Center Stage Theatre season sponsor is Dr. John Carter, DDS.
This production contains adult language and subject matter.
Disenchanted Cast: Meagan Eager of Bay City; Danessa Hellus of Freeland; Tara Besso Ell of Midland; Lois Reeves of Mount Pleasant; Brooke Gomez and Emily Rupp of Saginaw.