For a musical that was born onto the New York stage in the past six months, Disenchanted! is all grown up.
The nine princesses who tell us how life really is have broken out of their castles, kicked off their (erroneous) glass slippers and ditched their princes for a better life.
John Cooper Studio Theatre
Fri Sept 23-Sat Oct 1 2016 @ 7.30pm
For their first night on the stage in Old York – which marked the UK premiere of this US show – these royal ladies were in excellent voice, particularly Katie Melia and Alexa Chaplin as Snow White and Cinderella.
They acted as our hosts for the evening, moving though the audience at the beginning as we sat at cabaret tables, introducing each well-known name as she began to take her story apart.
The real tales, they tell us, have little to do with Grimm and much less to do with Disney. These famous names are firmly placed in the 21st century; and kick against the objectification, exploitation and outright disrespect they have received for so many years.
Each song outdoes the last in outrageous wit (I can’t quote one line over another, it would spoil the surprise.)
We were treated to Elanor Dunn as the delightfully crazy Belle, who sings of being expected to converse with flatware and sugar bowls while keeping the perfect house. (You suspect she is not insane at all but waiting her chance to lock the door on dirty dishes and her Beast as soon as she can.)
We hear Two Legs from Maren Fagerås Nævdal as an outrageously drunk Little Mermaid who curses her decision to give up the underwater life for an adolescent prince who swims too much.
Pocahontas (Hayley Bamford) cries from the heart for some honesty in her story; now her skirt is too short and all she is expected to do is roll around on the beach.
Basically, the ladies reveal, you can have jewellery, silks and a room at the Ritz, as long as you are, um, well endowed. But really they say, superficial things are not important: All I Really Wanna Do is Eat. A real happy ever after for these princesses would be a plate of burritos!
Full of energy
Everyone gave everything they had to their performances, but for me the song of the night had to be Not One Red Cent, sung by Hayley again, this time as Rapunzel, a very German Fraulein whom, we are told, is the one who has held most firmly to her original story. (She fails to hold onto her hilariously incongruous horned helmet though, which Snow White grabs and wears with pride.)
Despite her wish for authenticity, Rapunzel still finds her image appearing on everything from Pepsodent to Post-It notes, and for which, as we guess, she has received Not One Red Cent. Hayley split the audience down the middle and had us competing with each other to see who could sing Not One Red Cent with the most gusto.
The costumes were exactly right and the band was bright and full of energy. Praise must go to Dennis T Giacino who was responsible for book, music and lyrics. So much more could be said about the cheeky lyrics, but that would spoil the highlight of the night.
If I have one criticism it is that I would have liked some reason for all these famous faces to be meeting; why and how are they there? I understand that this is a revue (and these celebrities’ reputations go before them!) but perhaps some linking plot might have been useful, outside of the characters’ stories.
That is a small grumble, though. Disenchanted! is scandalous, uproarious and marvellous all at once. I defy anyone to leave the show without a smile of wicked delight.