Book, Music and Lyrics: Dennis T. Giacino
Director: Jez Luckins
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
After being nominated for numerous off-Broadway awards, Disenchanted! has been licensed for worldwide performance and now enjoys its Birmingham première from Third from the Right Productions.
…. and they all lived happily ever after. The stock ending to fairytales after the Prince finds his true love and they are married. And, of course, many European fairytales were adapted by Disney in animated features that maybe took some liberties with the original, typically rather darker, tales from writers such as the Brothers Grimm. In Disenchanted!, we meet several of these wronged heroines as they have their say about their treatment at the hands of the mighty mouse and it’s fair to say they aren’t best pleased. Being a girl from Northern France who inexplicably speaks with an American accent and who converses with household items has taken its toll on Belle (Kerry Davies) who tells us the experience has sent her insane. A drunken Ariel (Sarah Coussens) explains that she has two legs too many, having given up her life as the daughter of the king of the ocean to live with a prince called Eric. (Eric!?!) And what about Kerry Davies’ Princess Badroulbadour? Who? Well, she was relocated and renamed Jasmine by Disney. She is now a secondary character with a secondary storyline in her film, she tells us.
The evening is hosted by a sassy Snow White (Natalie Baggott), a ditzy Cinderella (Jo Foley) and a, well, sleepy Sleeping Beauty (Gaynor Whitehouse). Together they introduce us to the other princesses – Belle, Mulan (Amy Pearson) – the only princess without a man and who fears she might be lesbian – Ariel, Pocohontas (Gillian Homer) – who leads the cast in a song to explain that they all have to suffer from being drawn by men and so are, so to speak, somewhat out of proportion – while Rapunzel (Kaz Luckins) bemoans that she is the only princess to have retained her German origins.
Baggott, Foley and Whitehouse lead the production providing links between the songs from the other princesses and explaining the “Princess Complex” that leads them to appear to be helpless damsels in distress when in reality we’re told, they’re anything but. All in fine voice, they work well together, remaining in character as their alter-egos even when breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly. There’s not much of a narrative as each princess explains why she feels hard done by, but that’s not the point, of course. In effect, the whole is a thinly barbed attack on the representation of women in film and on stage in general, touching on such heavyweight issues as body image along the way. But the songs remain upbeat even when the message is, in fact, quite serious. Creator, Dennis T. Giacinto, has cleverly referenced styles from elsewhere in the musical canon, with songs feeling as if they must have featured in Grease or Wicked, for example, to subtly reinforce his message and give the whole a familiar feel.
Tight direction from Jez Luckins supported by choreography by Gaynor Whitehouse maintains pace and a simple set from Ian Howarth including video and projections is used effectively to underline the message.
Overall, a lighthearted romp through the Disney canon that amuses but that, despite being originally written almost ten years ago, still rings true in current times.
Reviewed on 1 September 2018 | Image: Phil Timms