“When you wish upon a star your dreams come true…” Not for the princesses in “Disenchanted!” A major hit off-Broadway met with stellar reviews, the raunchy vaudeville style show explores the darker side of Disney.
One by one we meet the princesses we all know and love in South Shore Theatre Experience’s intimate blackbox theater. They have a lot of their minds and are ready to let it all out – vocally and physically. Although the show stars actresses portraying princesses, audiences should know to keep the kids at home. These princesses swear, seduce, and even perform an entire musical number about their bosoms (bluntly titled “Big Tits”). However, for the adults who grew up with these characters, it’s a treat to see them call out their individual tropes and the problematic side of Walt’s world.
Snow White (Lauren Biasi), Cinderella (Rita Sarli), and Sleeping Beauty (Mary Ann Cafiero) – all costumed in outfits more akin to a Disney themed burlesque than the theme park characters – act as the show’s official MCs. The trio has terrific chemistry and are each gifted with terrific comic timing and vocal prowess. Ms. Sarli in particular steals nearly every scene she sashays into with her radiant presence as the designated ditz. Meanwhile, Ms. Biasi brings on a passive aggressive energy as Disney’s first princess, who obviously has some control issues. Finally, the comedic Ms. Cafiero hams it up as the not so graceful Sleeping Beauty who, of course, sleeps through her cues.
Throughout the show we meet the other princesses who vent out their frustrations with their portrayals in the beloved films. Cassidy King takes on the roles of Belle, The Little Mermaid, and Rapunzel with cynical gusto while showing off a strong mezzo belt. Belle and The Little Mermaid are particularly troubled. Belle struggles with her sanity after putting up with talking objects for far too long while also questioning her relationship with a former furry. The Little Mermaid has turned to alcohol to deal with her regrets about becoming human. Meanwhile Rapunzel sports a unibrow and rages against the lack of cultural accuracy in her film commenting on the ignorance of the stories’ origins. Rapunzel’s song includes a humorous bit of audience participation.
Meanwhile Julie Lorson portrays Hua Mulan, Pocahontas, and Princess Badroulbadour (aka Jasmine from Aladdin). Although it is debatable whether it is appropriate for a white actress to portray characters of these ethnicities, some might argue that the inherent parody of the show may excuse this choice. In terms of performance, Ms. Lorson does a fine job with her songs and shows off great acting chops – especially, like Ms. King, when switching from one princess to the next. It is possible her portrayal of other ethnicities could be perceived as intentional irony alluding to the inherent cultural inaccuracies and whitewashing in Disney films. For instance, Jasmine’s song laments her presence as a secondary character. In one of the more political songs, Pocahontas touches upon the historical bastardization of the Native American’s true story – especially when you consider the fact that she was a child when she was married off to a white suitor. I must note, however, that I cannot speak for the feelings of any groups who may take offense and I do not wish to invalidate those feelings.
A major highlight of the show is the appearance of “The Princess Who Kissed the Frog” (aka Tiana from The Princess and the Frog). Jaylen Anderson gives a powerhouse performance belting out “I am that storybook princess… who’s finally gone black.” She perfectly executes the justified snarkyness of the lyrics that calls out Disney for creating 48 feature films (seriously, Disney?) before introducing a black princess. However, I found myself disappointed that the show didn’t give her much to do beyond her solo because Ms. Anderson is truly a presence to behold on stage.
Some of the best moments of the show are the group numbers. My favorite song in the musical, hands down, was the Cinderella-led number called “All I Wanna Do is Eat.” Of course she is alluding to the unrealistic waistlines and Barbie-esque legs we’ve watched in Disney princess films over the years. The song is presented like an AA meeting, giving each character their moment to lament their hunger. Once again, Ms. Sarli captures the crowd’s attention with her brilliant timing and unyielding commitment to her performance.
But don’t worry – even if you’ve always rolled your eyes at the sugar coated perfection of princess stories, Sleeping Beauty is there to bring it all home. Ms. Cafiero’s Sleeping Beauty is refreshingly confident and unapologetic, concluding the show with an empowering finale that speaks to the fact that no woman is always in princess form. Sometimes we’re moody, sometimes we just want to lay on the couch with a carton of Hagen Daas, and sometimes our Prince Charming turns out to be a dick. But no matter what – we’re all fabulous and should own who were are despite what anyone may think.
When it comes down to it, “Disenchanted!” is simply fun. It doesn’t pretend to be overly ambitious or deep. If you’re looking for a night out on the town that will leave you laughing off the stress of the week with your girlfriends or partner, this is the show for you. With no shortage of talent, catchy tunes, and shameless humor, this little gem of a show is an escape we all need from reality.
Book, Music, & Lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino
Director – Deborah Cascio Plezia
Assistant Director – Mary Ann Cafiero
Musical Director/Piano – Marc Levenson
Drums – Dave Del Orfano
Stage Manager, Lights/Sound – Carolyn Lilly
Sets – Ted Plezia
Costume & Props – Deborah Cascio Plezia
South Shore Theatre Experience
115 South Wellwood Ave.
Lindenhurst, NY 11751
Visit SouthShoreTheatre.com or call (631) 669-0506