Chicago Theater Review: DISENCHANTED! (Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: DISENCHANTED! (Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse)

by Lawrence Bommer on May 16, 2016

in Theater-Chicago

GIRL-POWER PRINCESSES TAKE ON TROPES,
BUT THIS REVUE COULD USE MORE WIT AND MAGIC

If you were a mean girl, you might call Disenchanted! a feel-good pity party. More compassionate souls will see this 95-minute 2011 musical, created by former history teacher Dennis T. Giacino, as a pushback protest. In any case it definitely counts on—and possibly exploits–a very persuadable target audience. (Giacino conceived it, he says, as his answer to the question of what the “real” Pocahontas would feel about her transformation in her 1995 movie “comeback.”)

Disenchanted-GroupSelfie

Now playing Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse through June 5 in a presentation from Broadway in Chicago, the six-person female romp is out to out the false expectations and unreal standards for perfection, beauty and happiness that fuel the dreaded “princess syndrome.” Such unreal fantasy-mongering is embodied in the 1937 ballad “Someday My Prince Will Come.” (Disenchanted! is a kind of Toddlers and Tiaras for grownup girls.) Hence the deliberately disillusioning title as these damsels confess their distress.

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Giacino’s dozen songs are delivered by representative survivors of the syndrome, now wised up to Prince Charming’s dubious appeal and the double standards of children’s classics. Hosting the revisionist festivities are perky-peppy Snow White (Merritt Crews) and her posse—a sardonic Cinderella (Madison Hayes-Crook), and a narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty (Daniella Richards). Their opening and closing numbers, “One More Happ’ly Ever After” and “Once Upon a Time,” expose a familiar fraud. They excoriate the cloying and empty promises of the Grimm and Andersen fairy tales as transformed into Disney escapism and an occasionally thinly disguised misogyny. But this is not Into The Woods or Avenue Q, cleverly undermining their source material. Puns are about as witty as this show gets. Disenchanted! is in-your-face, confrontational and often gratuitously graphic.

Disenchanted-3GroupShotSo we see Miriam Drysdale’s Belle in a strait-jacket (“Insane!”) singing about her kitchen boredom and how Beast’s castle is oddly claustrophobic. Drysdale also delivers a “fish out of water,” heavy drinking Little Mermaid (“Two Legs”), and a Rapunzel who refuses to have her suffering exploited (“Not One Red Cent,” a silly audience participation song).

A native-American Pocahontas with attitude (“Honestly”), Ann Paula Bautista also complains of being reduced to a “Secondary Princess” as Princess Badroulbadour, Aladdin’s fling: Rampaging as Chinese fighter Hua Mulan, Bautista proclaims her lesbian liberation anthem in “Without the Guy.” Uche Ama, the no-name Princess Who Kissed a Frog, brings an African-American emphasis to the triumphant makeover solo “Finally.” In crude but pointed choruses, the company dance up a small storm, extolling the questionable delights of “Big Tits” and the anti-anorexia rouser “All I Want to Do Is Eat.”

Though the band sometimes overwhelms the lyrics, Christopher Bond’s sprightly staging moves the variety show quickly and it never outstays its welcome. But this revue delivers a very conditional consolation. If you’re already immune to the princess syndrome, it’s just corrective overkill, as in “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Disenchanted-FrogPrincessphotos courtesy of Starvox

Disenchanted!
Starvox Entertainment
presented by Broadway in Chicago
Broadway Playhouse
Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut
ends on June 5, 2016
for tickets, call 800.775.2000
or visit Broadway In Chicago

for more shows,
visit Theatre in Chicago

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