Female characters taking control of their own destinies is very much the order of the day in theatre, and in Disenchanted, a musical comedy fresh from off-Broadway, it is the turn of the Disney princesses to rip up the rule book, kick the traditional happily ever afters to the kerb, and prove being paired with a prince is not necessarily the be-all and end-all of life.
The original princess trio of Snow White (Jodie Steele), Cinderella (Sophie Isaacs) and Sleeping Beauty (Allie Daniel) set the scene and serve as hosts for the other royal ladies put on display.
Steele is way against type here, and I admit I didn’t immediately recognise her, but she is fun as the princess who has had enough of sweetly singing and looking after a houseful of short old chaps. Isaacs trips on her slippers and is fed up of pumpkins, while Daniel gets her moment of sole perfection in the nick of time.
The book, music and lyrics for Disenchanted are all by Dennis T Giacino, and if some songs and scenes don’t quite hit the mark – Rapunzel’s song was plain weird and full of German stereotypes (despite Jenny O’Leary’s energy), while Sleeping Beauty’s snoring wasn’t really funny the first time, let alone the second – others are extremely good.
A song about body image hits home, and Mulan’s coming out song (powerfully sung by Natalie Chua) raises the LGBTQIA+ flag perfectly, while Pocahontas (Grace Mouat) reclaims her real story from the most problematic of the modern age of Disney princesses.
I enjoyed Millie O’Connell’s Little Mermaid, wishing to return to the sea where two legs are too many, while swigging a bottle of beer (= legless, get it?), and she was so far from the Ariel we saw on screen she was clearly the naughtiest of the princesses and definitely the one who would encourage reassuringly bad behaviour in her peers.
The other ladies we meet are The Princess Who Kissed The Frog (Shanay Holmes, who also co-produces for West End Musical Productions, with Chris Steward), Aisha Jawando as a Belle fed up with “that little cup who won’t shut up”, and Courtney Bowman, who pulls back Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine to her original roots. All absolutely fine, and showing their stories with a side order of sass and pizazz.
Disenchanted, directed by Tom Jackson Greaves, streams tonight and tomorrow on stream.theatre. It is a show which has great potential to be a party piece, but despite the efforts of these ten wonderful women, this didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I would happily go to see it on a live stage, where I’m sure it is hilarious and a lot of fun, but on screen there was something missing for me.
Filmed on Zoom against plain coloured backgrounds, there is a definite focus on each princess as we meet them, but I feel this show needs a bit more engagement. I feel it needs an audience to cheer and whoop along, and this was my main issue with Disenchanted, as presented here.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Disenchanted.