Disney princess spoof has plenty of laughs but not all the bits hit the mark
Walt Disney intended to build a world where everyone’s dreams come true, but the princesses in his legendary stories are none too happy these days. They’ve suffered long enough from the Princess Complex — believing women must be beautiful damsels in distress, breathlessly waiting for Prince Charming to save them from their otherwise dull, pointless lives.
And thus begins the story of “Disenchanted.”
BDT Stage has built a reputation for talented actors (who also serve you dinner), and its production of “Disenchanted” showcases another group of solid actors with incredible voices, delightful humor and strong delivery.
As Sleeping Beauty, Annie Dwyer ad-libs cleverly throughout the show with an audience member, while Tracy Warren (as Cinderella) does a great job rousing a table to sing along. Meanwhile, Jessica Hindsley fills her lead as Snow White with a perfect mix of attitude and humor; her narration personally connects with the audience, making them feel a part of the show, rather than mere onlookers.
The actors bring their princess characters to life so well that it’s unnecessary to know each Disney princess film well, though it does help to know that Belle (Alicia K. Meyers) was surrounding by talking objects to fully understand why she’s in a straight jacket singing about going insane because the forks and spoons and candelabras won’t stop talking to her. However, in musical numbers like “Pocahontas’s Theme,” Marijune Scott does such an excellent job embodying the cartoon’s iconic “strong” pose, you don’t have to know much about the storyline to get the jokes.
Though the cast is excellent and spot-on hitting the notes, the actual “Disenchanted” script doesn’t quite do the satire justice. Out of 21 musical scenes, perhaps half hit the funny bone, and only a handful really stand out.
Former history teacher Dennis T. Giacino wrote the musical to pop the fantastical princess bubble, but his humor and poignancy only scratches the surface. Sure, there are a lot of very funny sexual references, but often, that’s as far as the humor goes. It’s as if he went for the easy laughs in writing the script, rather than digging deeper into clever, witty and profound layers that actually make up satire.
For example, while Meyers plays a great Little Mermaid (as well as Belle), her Little Mermaid piece merely laments having two legs, rather than a tail, and in doing so, falls a bit flat. Clams sing along with her, and at the end, a princess comments that at least she doesn’t have crabs. It’s this kind of forced sexual humor that garners a chuckle, and stops there.
On the other hand, the autumn leaves that consistently fall on Pocahontas as she sings (and assumes the iconic pose) is actually quite funny and poignant: it comments on society’s stereotypical view of Native Americans as Pocahontas laments how Disney skimped on her dress to make her sexy by showing too much skin.
Scenes like “Big Tits,” which focuses on why princesses must be sketched to size DDs (and a 22-inch waist), also make a societal statement while being funny. If Giacino could have kept up this kind of depth, “Disenchanted” would have had audiences rolling in the aisles, while driving home the true Princess Complex point, because it has actually negatively affected many females in our culture.
“Disenchanted” was nominated for several awards, but as a whole, the script doesn’t rise to its rich potential.
That said, BDT Stage still presents a very entertaining production of “Disenchanted” (including a surprise appearance by Rapunzel) and keeps the audience, at the very least, chuckling, if not outright laughing. It’s well worth seeing.
Themed dinner selections (a Mid-Eastern salad dish for Jasmine, apple pie for Snow White) also make the evening quite enjoyable. Entrees like the tortilla-crusted tilapia are very tasty, and the desserts are always divine, making the whole evening, of course, end Happily Ever After.