From Sondheim to the Saturday Evening Post, there have been enchanted carriage loads of what-happened-after-happily-ever-after stories -- the idea of sending up fairy tales is just too tasty to leave alone.
But "Disenchanted," a neat, 90-minute musical spoof on fairy tales and princesses, casts a much more modern look at the classics. The books are mentioned in passing, usually only to lament the changes made when the tales were turned into animated movies.
Pocahontas, for example, was only a 10-year-old tomboy when she was adapted into a much more fetching movie heroine. The change, quite obviously, was made so Prince Charming would take the kids to the movie.
Or perhaps, as "Disenchanted" posits, the idea is to make the wide-eyed little princesses feel guilty about their bodies and their lack of vapidity.
The princesses in this show are packing rolls of nickels inside their velvet-and-satin gloves. The show, stylishly directed by Fiely Matias and apparently being groomed for an off-Broadway run, not only leaves you laughing but packs a wallop of a message -- and a no-holds-barred assault on the contemporary princesses in animated films.
At least in books, the princesses can look like Mom or Aunt Betty and dress and act like real people. On the other hand, go to any shopping mall or supermarket and you'll see little girls dressed in princess skirts and tiaras. You will see few boys dressed as Prince Charming.
Certainly their moms have been around long enough not to buy into the myth, yet it still seems to be an uphill battle for those who applaud the "Disenchanted" message. Others could argue that just as graphic violence in movies, television and video games doesn't necessarily turn boys into insane killers, princess cartoons don't turn young girls into vapid, helpless drama queens.
Sorry, I got carried away, there. But "Disenchanted" will do that to you.
The cast of seven is simply incredible, creating wonderful post-happily-ever-after characters still tied to their movie personalities, but with the clarity of sight that a few years have given them.
Jessica Fisher is a hilariously gimlet-eyed Snow White, taking on the princess myth in songs that deal with issues such as breast size and eating disorders. Shelby Olsen seems to have retained most of Cinderella's qualities in her little black dress, but mocks them with eye-rolls and facial gestures. Amanda Leigh Denison is Sleeping Beauty, and the comedy relief for most of the show, missing cues by being asleep or rushing onstage to dance with manic intensity.
In supporting princess roles, four other performers create some wonderful and funny moments. Suzy Shepard, as Belle and the Little Mermaid, steals the show with her number, "Two Legs," which laments giving up her fishy tail for some guy. Estelle Fernandez plays Hua Mulan and Pocahontas and has a revealing solo in "Honestly." Allison Meneley plays three princesses, but kills as Tinkerbell doing her Bitter Pixie turn. Finally, Ladidi Garba has two stunning numbers, "Not V'one Red Cent" and "Finally," sung with others in the cast.
A three-piece music combo is led by Alicia Jeffery and features Ted Gould and Jacob Alexander. The very clever costumes were designed by Derek Leo Miller.
By Dennis T. Giacino,
presented by OMG, I Love That Show Productions
Where: Lesher Center for the Arts, Civic Drive at Locust, Walnut Creek
Running time: 1 hour,
30 minutes, recommended for ages 15 and up