REVIEW: "Disenchanted! (High School Edition)—Laguna Playhouse
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Turns Out, Happily Ever After Was a Bunch of Hooey!
Now Playing for ONE MORE DAY!
At Laguna Playhouse, a group of Disney princesses have worked some magic into all their bitterness. If you missed it off-Broadway you’re in for a treat. It’s Disenchanted! Nominated for ‘Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical’ by Outer Critics Circle Awards, and a ‘Best New Off-Broadway Musical” nomination from Off Broadway Alliance.
Beneath those tiaras, there’s a lot of attitude! But anyone who loves Disney and fairy tales, whether you’re a prince or princess, better get to streaming this show before the clock strikes midnight. You only have tomorrow left to see it this season.
Cinderella is clueless, Snow White can be a little mean, and Sleeping Beauty? Narcoleptic, apparently. When it comes to fairy-tale princesses, those are the Big Three, but in Dennis T. Giacino’s "Disenchanted!" they’re not the way Disney, let alone the Brothers Grimm, drew them. It turns out the part about “they lived happily ever after” was just a bunch of hooey, and the girls are here to set the record straight and tell you exactly what did happen. They’re ready to royally stick it to The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Walt Disney or any other man whose visions of perpetual wedded bliss differ drastically from theirs.
The trio leads an all-princess revue aimed at upending their popular portrayals. “Misguided messages,” insists feisty Snow White (Caroline Field), who takes no guff and can even get a bit preachy. “They make us look weak,” complains Sleeping Beauty (Mikki Pagdonsolan). “Like helpless damsels in distress,” adds Cinderella (Bridget Phillips).
Ah, the grim lot of the Disney Princess: Drawn by a man, saddled with an improbably perfect figure, Americanized, commoditized, sanitized and morally burdened with assuring successive generations of wide-eyed girls that not only will their prince come, but his arrival will be something to actually celebrate.
But this is feminism light, with sparkly costumes and high heels to keep the fantasy alive. A “ho” joke isn’t beneath the playwright’s dignity, and when the princesses rail against princes who expect them to do all the housework, the show feels like a girls-night-out retro rebellion for the suburban oppressed.
The Director is Dylan Russell (“Evanescence”). Musical Director is Christopher W. Smith (“Now. Here. This”) and Choreography is by Ellen Prince (“Nine”). Makeup is by El Colover, Media Designer and Video Editor is Hannah Tran, Sound Design is by Kate Wecker, Costumes by Becca Michelle, Stage Manager is Jessica Keasberry, Assistant Stage Manager is Makayla Sims, and Production Assistant is Sophia Haslett.
In this fondly irreverent musical comedy (this one is the slightly cleaned-up high school version), with book, music and lyrics by Giacino, and superb direction by Ms. Russell, Mr. Smith and Ms. Prince, the show was originally conceived to be filmed on the Laguna Playhouse stage. But due to the continued pestiferous pestilence currently scourging our world, actors were equipped to self-film in front of green screens at home, with some footage shot through zoom, and highly trained Laguna Playhouse techies transposed, edited and metamorphosed raw footage into a wonderfully entertaining, synced creation, complete with special effects, dubbing and even ending bows, a trend commonly known as a “hybrid production” now, which consolidates film and theatre together.
Starring in the show are: Caroline Field (“Oliver! The Musical”) as Snow White; Bridget Phillips (“She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms”) as Cinderella; Mikki Pagdonsolan (“Mozart’s The Magic Flute”) as Sleeping Beauty; Alexi Ishida (“American Idiot”) as Hua Mulan; Mariah Bakaimani-Roberts (“PARADE”) as The Princess Who Kissed The Frog; Kristen Daniels (“Hairspray”) as The Little Mermaid; Grace Hahn (“The Little Princess”) as Pocahontas; Ellie Adria Smallwood (“Violet”) as Belle; Yasmine Hamady (Film: “Bloom”) as Princess Badroulbadour; Scarlett Wheaton (“Our Town”) as Rapunzel.
Ensemble Chorus includes Alexandra Nottage (“School of Rock”); Iza Zembruski (“I Never Saw Another Butterfly”); Stephanie Sanchez (“West Side Story”); Charlie Grace Goubran (“Oliver”); and Katie Baker (“The Perfect Dog”). The Announcer is Finn Flanagan (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”).
Beneath the comedy, slapstick and farce that play out in this musical, a very important connection also place between the princesses and the home audience throughout the show. The show tackles such subjects as body images, race, sexual orientation, LGBTQIA awareness and acceptance, cultural appropriation, misogyny and the obsession with the princess culture that aims to homogenize all of us.
All ten princesses who make up the cast of the tawdry and very amusing little PG-13 cabaret see the world from a different angle, and the author manages to shoehorn them all into its 90 minute run (plus one two-minute intermission for a bathroom break).
Most of the songs are laments for a princess. We have Ms. Pagdonsolan's Sleeping Beauty singing about all the annoying pricks with a needle she has been obliged to endure, all in the name of wakefulness. She is unpredictability flippant—like a comical bull in a china shop. Then mad housewife Belle (Ellie Adria Smallwood) getting fitted for a straitjacket because she’s been talking to the dishware and cleaning up after her beast of a boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Ms. Hamady’s Princess Badroulbadour — OK, Jasmine, give up the ruse — mostly complains about being reduced to a supporting actress to the exasperating Aladdin, a street urchin, but still a dude. Making an entrance on their cleverly designed magic carpet, she retorts: “Back home, I’m not even allowed to drive this thing.”
The Little Mermaid is—inexplicably—a drunk and bitter redneck, sore over having two working legs. Kristen Daniels is the famous fish-out-of-water redhead, decked out in fishnets, smudged lips, sparkly party pants, knee bruises and crusty, nautical tattoos, vaguely giving off an Aussie rock chick vibe. In a totally side-splitting scene, Ariel, who after having given up her land, her tail and even her voice for some perfidious gent from Denmark with big hair, now wails sullenly: "I'd happily swap these panty hose for the smell of flotsam in my nose."
Alexi Ishida's Mulan is a not-so traditional princess without a prince, and thinks she’s a lesbian. She’s a walking dichotomy of both male and female persuasions and is totally infatuated with Cinderella.
Pocahontas (Grace Hahn) sings of how she would never have actually kissed that old guy, John Smith (being as she was 10 years old and all). She is the ultimate exploited girl who is a bizarre blend of the innocent little Powhatan from history and the buxom babe from today’s pop princess culture.
And ultimate supreme diva Mariah—I mean "The Princess Who Kissed the Frog"—sings a Beyonce-inspired number about why it took forever and a day before an African-American princess actually emerged from Walt Disney's all-white Wonderful World of Color. “Why’d it take ’em so long to give a sistah a song?” the princess quips. The 2009 movie “The Princess and the Frog” featured Disney’s first black princess, and the lateness of this development is part of Ms. Bakaimani-Roberts’ point.
Ms. Phillips is hilarious as happy-go-lucky Cinderella, as fragile as her glass slipper and terrified by how little time is left in the show. Rapunzel (Scarlett Wheaton) a strong German v’oman with a domineering personality; American capitalism has turned this frail, sheltered girl into a Mel Brooksian, Wagnerian singing monster bent on getting her fair share.
The tunes are peppy and the lyrics are exceptionally witty — comparable, really, to the best of "Forbidden Broadway." Dennis T. Giacino wrote the lot of them. Brava! Snow White rocks “A Happy Tune,” Cinderella sails through “All I Wanna Do Is Eat,” Sleeping Beauty is more than…”Perfect,” The Princess Who Kissed The Frog reaches new heights in “Finally,” Hua Mulan figured, why not in “Without The Guy,” The Little Mermaid is liberating in “Two Legs,” Pocahontas mesmerizes in “Honestly,” Belle sings with feeling in ”Insane,” Rapunzel is defiant in “Not V’One Red Cent,” and Princess Badrobadour sizzles in “Secondary Princess.
All of these women are extremely talented; they can sing, they can dance, and they know how to make the audience laugh. Right from the start, with the opening number “One More Happily After,” these princesses never pull their punches. Anyone who loves Disney and fairy tales, whether you’re a prince or princess, and wants to have a good laugh and listen to catchy music, there's no better place than right here.
This video on demand performance is available for viewing beginning December 18 at 12 noon through December 20 at 10 PM. Only (1) one ticket is necessary per household. To purchase additional tickets as gifts, please place separate orders using a different email address. Regular Ticket Price $20.00 @ https://purchase.lagunaplayhouse.com/7463/7464
For patrons age 16 - 25, please apply for a free viewing link for DISENCHANTED!
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report