Rachel Weinberg has been a freelance theater critic around Chicago for more than three years. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Rachel worked for two years in digital marketing at Goodman Theatre and spent a season as a Marketing Apprentice for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City. You can read all of Rachel's reviews at RachelWeinbergReviews.com and find her on Twitter @RachelRWeinberg.
L to R: Madison Hayes-Crook (Cinderella), Merritt Crews (Snow White), Daniella Richards (Sleeping Beauty) in ‘DISENCHANTED!’. Photo by Dahlia Katz.
Review: DISENCHANTED! at the Broadway Playhouse
By Rachel Weinberg
The Broadway In Chicago presentation of the musical revue DISENCHANTED! offers a 90-minute spoof of the classic fairy tale princesses, as made famous to most audiences by Walt Disney. With music, lyrics, and book by Dennis T. Giacino and direction by Christopher Bond, DISENCHANTED! provides some fun. That said, the satire stays surface-level—it’s more of a gentle poking than a true skewering of the gender stereotypes deeply embedded within Disney’s tales. DISENCHANTED! presents itself as a pro-feminist musical comedy, but despite some clever moments, the material doesn’t quite reach the level of sophisticated satire.
Fortunately, the ensemble of six offers plenty of talent and commitment to the light material. DISENCHANTED! presents the first Disney princess Snow White (Merritt Crews) as the emcee of the show, with a kooky Cinderella (Madison Hayes-Crook) and narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty (Daniella Richards) by her side. Along the way, the show incorporates a slew of other princesses portrayed by Ann Paula Bautista, Miriam Drysdale, and at this performance, Quashaea Rogers. Each princess delivers a number lamenting the burdens of royal life and attempts to take on some of the sexist duties and responsibilities that come with it. Crews has panache as the leader of “The Princess Complex” and displays an impressive vocal range. While Hayes-Crook seemed to take a few moments to warm up, she’s ultimately quite funny and has a shining moment in the number “All I Wanna Do Is Eat,” in which she leads her princess counterparts in an homage to food. Richards has great fun with the running joke of Beauty’s narcolepsy. This is particularly true in a moment when Cinderella prods her with a broom in an attempt to rouse her, to which she remarks, “Pinocchio, no!” (this is likely the cleverest line in Giacino’s book, as well).
While all the performers display apt vocal and comedic chops, it is Drysdale—in the roles of Belle, the Little Mermaid, and Rapunzel—who steals the show. Drysdale gives each of her three princesses a distinctive flair—making a complete transformation from a flustered Belle to a drunken, country-crooning Little Mermaid (Vanessa Leuck’s costume design and Gentry Akens’s prop design work are also amusing here). She’s particularly strong in the number “Not V’One Red Cent,” Giacino’s most original bit of satire in the show. In the song, Drysdale as a German Rapunzel leads some of the other princesses in a lament over the commercialization of their likenesses. She truly owns this moment, and totally sells (pardon the pun) her character’s frustration.
While DISENCHANTED! enjoys a few other such moments, the show overall is uneven and a bit simplistic. I also can’t help but contemplate what it means for a man to have written a show all about female princesses taking back their fairy tale narratives and identities. And, too, in recognizing some of the issues with these fairy tale stories, DISENCHANTED! sometimes misses the mark itself—as with the introduction of the first black princess, The Princess Who Kissed The Frog (Rogers). She doesn’t appear until more than halfway through the show—though perhaps that’s part of the point—and the musical style for her solo number “Finally” lacks originality.
—DISENCHANTED! certainly has an entertaining premise, but it doesn’t quite live up to it. The six actors in this cast, however, elevate the material and prove that they can hold their own onstage.