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Disney Princesses Bare All in Carnegie’s Disenchanted

Review by Doug Iden of Disenchanted!: Carnegie Theatre

In a most unDisney-like celebration, ten fairy tale princesses (played by six actresses) cavort, preen, bedazzle and dish the dirt in the musical Disenchanted! to close the season for The Carnegie Theater. There is no story per se in this whirlwind of sound and color. Rather, it reminds me of an old fashioned TV variety show where guests (fairy tale princesses) tell their stories through song, hosted by the resident master of ceremonies Snow White (portrayed in grandiose fashion by Sara Kenny).

The play opens with Snow White, Cinderella (Allison Evans) and Sleeping Beauty (Blair Godshall) reminiscing about the “good old days” with the song “One More Happ’ly Ever After”–but then they were married and their futures became anything but “happily ever after”. In the satiric songs, they bemoan their fates as archetypal housewives, confined to keeping house, cooking and entertaining their spouses. A major theme in the play, written ironically by a man, is society’s preconceived notion of what American women should look like and how they should act in a sexist world dominated by men as the “Princess Complex”. (The tone and sentiment is similar to the play Love, Loss and What I Wore which The Carnegie presented last November.)

Then we are introduced to the remaining princesses: Mulan, Pocahontas and Princess Badroulbador (all played by high school senior Mikayla Renfrow), Belle, the Little Mermaid and Rapunzel (Gabriella Francis) and the Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Brittany Hayes). All tell their stories through satirical songs with very clever lyrics written by Dennis Giacino who also wrote the book and the music.

The show is presented with great élan and gusto. They clearly are having a lot of fun doing the show and their enthusiasm is infectious. Since there really is no story, the actresses are able to interact with each other and with the audience. Snow White is continually upbraiding Cinderella who wants to do her own shtick and thinks she would be a better MC. Snow White is also gleefully harsh with some of the other princesses. Sara Kenny is marvelous as the centerpiece of the show alternating between a disingenuous charisma, disdain for the other princesses and her self-aggrandizement as the MC. Allison Evans is closer to the classic princess with a Barbie Doll persona which contrasts beautifully with Snow White. Sleeping Beauty’s gimmick is constantly falling asleep when it’s time for her big song but then she reasserts herself with the second act song “Perfect”.

Many of the jokes and sight gags relate to the idealized Disney animated movies in which the various princesses appear. Many of the costumes (designed by Cheyenne Hamberg) satirically resemble the attire from the Disney movies. There are also many allusions to the Alan Mencken songs, especially from Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas and Aladdin. If you are not acquainted with the Disney cartoons, you may miss some of the jokes but there are lots to go around. The set, designed by Tyler Gabbard, is serviceable with a stage-on-the-stage and a static background of a fairy tale castle (directly from Disney World).

Mikayla Renfrow sparkles in her multiple roles with sly references to being Asian. One of the best sight gags shows Princess Badroulbador (from Aladdin) wearing a magic carpet around her waist complete with fake legs and singing bitterly about being a “Secondary Princess”. Gabriella Francis also shines with her many characters but is especially effective as the Little Mermaid who wears an atrocious red wig (from the movie) and has buyer’s remorse about her clumsy legs (complete with bandages) which she grew because she had fallen in love with a human. Another cute sight gag is the Mermaid straddling a piece of rock which resembles the actual Little Mermaid statue in the Copenhagen harbor. Hayes’ Princess Who Kissed the Frog is enraptured by being the only “black” princess. All of the women have excellent voices ranging from rap to almost operatic which enhances a basically mediocre score. (Don’t know why contemporary Broadway composers don’t seem to be able to write a decent tune.) Music Director Erin McCamley leads the four piece band well. There is not a lot of dancing per se but the actors are in almost constant movement well choreographed by Producer Maggie Perrino.

Much of the play is zany, outrageous and larger-than-life, but there is a very serious undercurrent which addresses women’s roles in our society. There is a fair amount of adult humor and references which younger children may not understand.

It’s a fairy good show so hop on your carriage or magic carpet and join the somewhat disillusioned princess in Disenchanted! appearing at The Carnegie Theater through April 9. Tickets are available here.