Stellar cast enchants in BDT Stage’s online Disenchanted!

A play focused on the frustrations and grievances of your favorite fairy tale princesses may not seem like the light-hearted entertainment you’re looking for during these strange and unprecedented times. But BDT Stage’s streaming video of their live performance of Disenchanted! provides an irreverent tongue-in-cheek break while providing some relevant commentary on many of today’s hot topics.

Plus, the stellar cast at BDT Stage puts on a dynamic, spot-on performance that makes you feel that they are enjoying the show at least as much ‑ if not more ‑ than you. The socially distanced audience can occasionally be heard in the background of the video, which bolsters the feeling of a live show. So too does the three-member band, even if we don’t see them on the video. Sadly, the playful interplay with the audience that was peppered throughout the original production has been replaced with a several winks and nods to Covid-19, including the occasional donning of face masks and distribution of hand disinfectant.

Comedic take on dark themes

The costume-centric Disenchanted! tells the trials and tribulations of a group of fairy-tell princesses. The aging princesses, in what appear to be overwrought Halloween costumes, sing and dance their way through a litany of grievances against the way they’ve been cast by the entertainment world and the long-term effects on their wide-eyed, innocent audience. Broad themes include the Americanization, commoditization and sanitization of their characters. And, of course, the sexualization thrust upon them. In fact, the first dance routine that features all of the cast members is “Big Tits,” focusing on their double-D dimensions.

Despite the heavy themes, the show is definitely a comedy and has enough PG13+ lines to make the most devout princess fans twitter and gasp as the six cast members cavort through the roles of 10 princesses through singing and dance routines interspersed with comedic sketches.

Skims the surface

Dischanted! is full of easy laughs and general playfulness as it airily skips through the dark themes it explores while avoiding any real depth. But, despite the levity, there is an underlying and unescapable feeling that casts a shadow that even the best performers can’t overcome. By skimming the surface of some very complicated issues, by the end it begins to feel like we’re being preached at by a group of aging women in loud costumes.

Some of the best moments are when the script, written by Dennis Giacino and Fiely Matias, digs deeper into our cultural appropriations and stereotypes to go beyond just the song lyrics and one-liners. For example, it’s no coincidence that The Princess Who Kissed the Frog doesn’t make an entrance until mid-way through the show. Her late arrival highlights the delay by Disney in introducing a black princess to its fairy tale narratives. Or when autumn leaves rustle down upon Pocahontas as she sits in her classic pose, showcasing American’s stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans.

Veteran cast shines

BDT Stage originally produced this show at the beginning of last year, and the veteran cast is obviously having a good time with the revival. The trio of Snow White (Jessica Hindsley), Cinderella (Tracy Warren) and Sleeping Beauty (Annie Dwyer) lead the show, with Snow White playing the host and straight man woman. Hindsley has her Snow White role down-pat and is captivating as she shares intimate, knowing looks with the audience as her fellow princesses ditz about (Cinderella) or fall into a deep sleep and miss a featured song (Sleeping Beauty). Hindsley’s excellent voice remains strong and consistent throughout as she effortlessly skirts across the darkened three-tiered stage.

Both Warren and Dwyer bring an energy and spark to their respective princess characters (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) that makes them endearing — despite some annoying character traits. Not to mention that both can belt out a song!

Marijune Scott had some of the strongest moments in Disenchanted! as Mulan singing “Without the Guy,” suggesting that the character is a lesbian, and “Honestly,” an indictment of the inaccurate historical portrayal of Pocahontas. Her strong delivery and poignant performance make both a stand-out.

Another highlight is Anna High’s sassy rendition of “Finally” as the The Princess Who Kissed the Frog, which includes the line “I’m the fairy tale princess who’s finally now black.”

Alicia K. Meyers not only rounded out the cast with her deft portrayal of The Little Mermaid/Belle/Rapunzel, but she also co-directed and choreographed the production with Matthew D. Peters.

The stellar and energized production by BDT Stage helps prevent the play from dragging and downplays some of the script’s flaws. Plus, the well-produced and edited video keeps the pace flowing. While the music and lyrics may not be as memorable as some of the well-known productions it satirizes, Disenchanted! provides a fun and entertaining break – no social distancing required.