by Sonya Ellingboe (Littleton Independent)
Fairy tale princesses have long been part and parcel of our literary and social fabric, as they were created from ancient folk tales — and have more recently evolved through Disney films and now, via “Disenchanted,” an off-Broadway hit, which shifts them into feminist folk!
The composer/playwright is Dennis T. Giacino, who developed this new musical with off-Broadway director Fiely Matias, perhaps stepping on some toes along the way …
As lights go up at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, where “Disenchanted,” directed and choreographed by the multi-talented Nick Sugar, plays through Feb. 9, we meet Snow White (Abby McInerny), who translates as a leadership star; Cinderella (Lindsay Fuller) and Sleeping Beauty (LuAnn Buckstein) belting a strong “One More Happ’ly Ever After.”
Also featured: Belle, the Beauty who was in love with that Beast — she comes onstage in a straitjacket, crazed by all the strange things she’s encountered — moving plates and saucers and talking furniture, for example. (Jona Alonzo, who also plays the Little Mermaid, is Belle).
The Little Mermaid wants to be back at sea …
From Chinese lore, we meet a different sort of Hua Mulan — and from American legend, a militant Pocahontas (racist commentary?). From the Arabian Nights comes Aladdin’s magic Princess Badroubaldor (all are played by Faith Siobahn Ford).
The Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Anna High) comes via those Brothers Grimm. It’s good to see a black princess here — another swipe at the standard Disney lineup …
All bring issues to the fore — which is probably not how we remember them from story time at the library, school room, the Saturday movies — or at home!
The set consists of the lighted outline of a palace-ish sort of place, with curtained arches. Works well, enhanced by lighting and sound.
But these tales are meant for adult audiences and the language gets a bit raw — so leave those little people at home this time, despite the fairy tale theme. Disney fare, it is not!
A live band sits up to the right, led by Music Director Donna Kolpan Debreceni on keyboards, Sean Case, percussion and Scott Alan Smith, bass — a truly fine addition when budget allows … It really adds to the overall pleasure of live theater in a way that recorded music does not.
This material doesn’t have the overall depth and strength of some of our longtime favorite musicals, so the breadth of the message carries less of a wow factor, but it is sassy and fun — and the performers bring voices and style as they play at being feisty princesses …
We felt that they were happy ever after — or at least on that night!