Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Theater Review: Star actresses do ‘Disenchanted’ well

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Once upon a time, there were six talented singer-actresses who were cast as storybook princesses with an attitude.

The problem? The princesses are “Disenchanted” with their portrayals in classic fairy tales and more contemporary animated films.

The actresses, aka princesses, sang and danced their way through a bevy of royal complaints in “Disenchanted! The Musical,” a hilarious princess parody presented by Star of the Day Productions at the Macungie Institute Performing Arts and Conference Center. The musical concluded Sept. 28.

Billed as a Lehigh Valley premiere, “Disenchanted,” features book, music and very clever lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino, who received the 2010 New Jersey Playwrights Contest for the musical comedy. The 2014 New York premiere production received Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical from the Outer Critics Circle and Best New Off-Broadway Musical from the Off Broadway Alliance.

When this reviewer paid a visit to their daffy highnesses at the Sept. 20 performance, everyone was vying for the spotlight while all the good-girl pretenses were being thrown out the window. The princesses were nothing like the proper heroines of time gone by.

Snow White (Madeline Huggins) stole the show with her gripes about the age-old Princess Complex. That’s the one that emphasizes that to be desirable women must be beauty-obsessed, insecure and ditzy. She sang drolly that if she heard “One More Happ’ly Ever After” one more time, she would go insane. She was also proficient in double entendres: “Do I look like I have to wait for my prince to come?”

Cinderella (Jessie Dau), usually portrayed as the stereotypical rags-to-riches protagonist, was equally convincing as the whiny malcontent singing about having to starve to keep thin in “All I Want to Do Is Eat.”

Sleeping Beauty (Kirsten Almeida) did more than sleep. She snored a lot. As for being beautiful, she admitted she wasn’t “Perfect,” but by the end of the show she had decided that she likes the girl she sees.

In the formidable number “Finally,” The Princess Who Kissed a Frog (Juanita-Renay Shockley) belted out her discontent over the lack of African-American women in fairy tales: “I am that storybook princess that has finally gone black.” She couldn’t have delivered her message any better.

Two other actresses portrayed the remaining six princess protesters: The Little Mermaid, Belle and Rapunzel (Julisa Trinidad) and Hua Mulan, Pocahontas and Princess Badroulbadour (Christina Concilio). That pretty much exhausts the inventory of female fairy tale royalty.

The slightly tipsy Mermaid (Trinidad) was entertaining as the red-headed fish out of water who, in order to marry her prince, had to trade in her fins and the Seven Seas for “Two Legs.”

Pocahontas (Concilio) was a crowd-pleaser as she “Honestly” railed against the portrayal of the real-life Native-American.

As Hua Mulan, the legendary Chinese warrior, and Princess Badroulbadour from “Aladdin,” Concilio’s comic timing, facial expressions and body movements did much to enhance the script’s one-liners, as long as she didn’t overdo it.

A comic highlight of the evening, with some very humorous sarcasm and bras to match, was “Big Tits!,” sung by Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Pocahontas.

Director Will Windsor Erwin did a great job of casting and getting the best out of the actresses’ performances.

Victoria Scialfa’s choreography, while constrained by the dimensions of the stage, proved more than adequate.

Costumes by Benjamin Ruth made crafty use of printed aprons, decorated waist cinches and oversized padded bras to define characters and the diverse musical numbers.

Kudos and more snacks to the Princess Who Plays the Piano (Amy Foeller), the show’s very gifted one-woman band on stage.

All things considered, it is no fairy tale to say that in this production of “Disenchanted,” the cast members and production staff hit the high notes literally and figuratively.