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Carnegie’s Disenchanted!: Not Happily Ever After, But Hilarious Right Now

Review by Jack Crumley of Disenchanted!: The Carnegie

From Rocky and Bullwinkle’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” to Shrek, injecting modern sensibilities into classic stories has been its own genre for decades. Disenchanted!, now playing at The Carnegie through April 9, is very much in that vein, but with an emphasis on girl power. Author/composer Dennis T Giacino’s offbeat musical comedy hit Off-Broadway in 2014, and has been drawing strong reviews both in the US and other countries.

Disenchanted! isn’t told as a straightforward musical stage play. It’s more like a cabaret with the cast feeding off a lot of energy from the audience. It’s also a direct critique of the effect Disney has had on fairy tales. Snow White hosts with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty providing “assistance.” Mulan, Pocahontas, Princess Badroulbador (aka Jasmine), Belle, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, and The Princess Who Kissed The Frog all perform their own unique numbers as well. Each song takes a clever, skewed approach to each princess and her unique story.

This cast is excellent, and each actress deserves to be recognized. Sara Kenny (last seen on The Carnegie stage stealing scenes as Ethel Toffelmeier in The Music Man) runs the show as Snow White. Her expressive face and equally expressive voice command attention right from the opening. It’s impressive how quickly she shifts gears from demure to exasperated to wacky to sexy, and sometimes that’s just one scene. Allison Evans as Cinderella exudes a ditzy, manic, fun-loving vibe. Sleeping Beauty’s character is played by Blair Godshall as more of an awkward, enthusiastic outsider among the main three. Brittany Hayes is the Princess Who Kissed The Frog, and doesn’t show up until the second act, but takes the stage with a show-stopper about “Finally” being a princess who’s black.

All of the other princess roles are handled by two actresses working triple duty. Gabriella Francis plays a tortured Belle, a hilariously drunk Little Mermaid, and an overtly German, dominatrix-style Rapunzel. Mikayla Renfrow gives us a Mulan who’s questioning her sexuality, a Pocahontas who can’t believe how she’s portrayed, and a Princess Badroulbador (Jasmine) who’s been relegated to secondary status. Renfrow is finishing her senior year at SCPA and absolutely holds her own with this immensely talented ensemble. All of these women put everything they’ve got into every line they say or sing. It made the Sunday matinee feel like a Friday night at a club with a two drink minimum, and I mean that in the best possible way.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell how much of a show is in the script and how much comes from the director, but it seems obvious that Jodie Schwegmann-Meyn really worked with these women to get them as comfortable and confident as possible. This production has a frenzied, Muppet Show quality to it. A live stage performance that seems to just barely avoid falling apart. Schwegmann-Meyn should take great pride in this, her Carnegie directing debut.

Any review of this show would be remiss without praising Cheyenne Hamberg’s costume design. Each princess is instantly recognizable if you know them as Disney characters, but there are loads of details that make each outfit distinct for this show. Also on the production side, Maggie Perrino’s choreography gives the cast a chance to cut loose with each character (some more gracefully than others).

In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear, even though this show is about storybook princesses, this is not a show for children. It’s a provocative show that puts nearly every tradition and trope in an off-color light. Sacred cows do not fare well. There is some explicit cursing and implicit cursing (meaning swear words, not spells from witches). One of the songs in the show is called “Big Tits,” so it’s sexual at times as well. The show is also hilarious, clever, and even occasionally poignant. Carnegie audiences should consider themselves lucky to have been presented both Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore and Disenchanted! in the same season.

Disenchanted! plays Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at The Carnegie through April 9. Tickets are available here.