Disney Princesses remind Toronto audiences that fairy tales aren’t real in a dazzling musical
Once upon a time (a few hours ago), I brought my favourite Princess (Caryhn) to a magical place (The Randolph Theatre) to see a show about some other Princesses (of the Disney variety). It was called Disenchanted!, and we were both dazzled by it!
Disenchanted! (by Starvox Entertainment) is sort of the After part of the Princesses’ Happily Ever After stories, as told by them. It reminds us—through song and humour—that fairy tales aren’t real, history is often re-written, and most importantly: There is more to life than being pretty and married.
The Randolph Theatre is a beautiful space. Built in an old church, it has lovely woodwork, a classic rounded balcony with pews for seating, and of course the deep red drapery covering the stage. This all set the mood for the grand production of the evening.
We begin with the star, the confident and no-nonsense Snow White (Merrit Crews), who introduces herself and the other two “main” characters: The somewhat ditzy and flirty Cinderella (Madison Hayes-Crooks) and the slightly raunchy, fun-loving Sleeping Beauty (Daniella Richards).
They launch immediately to one of the many hilarious musical numbers, setting the scene for what’s to come: Basically that love at first sight is bullshit, marriage doesn’t save you, that Princes who kiss unconscious women are deeply problematic, and that some Princesses love other Princesses.
Caryhn and I were both impressed with Crews’ belting in the opening act, and the crowd’s cheers and howls indicated that they agreed. In fact we found the entire cast‘s musical abilities rather impressive. You want to trust Caryhn’s opinion here, as she’s the musical one (not me).
Soon we meet Belle (Myriam Drysdale), the book-loving Princess with a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome who regularly converses with inanimate objects, and has a mysterious American accent despite being French. When she was wheeled out in a straight-jacket attached to a chair, I couldn’t stop laughing.
These kinds of details make for hilarious musical swipes at the absurdity of Disney-esque Princess tropes: That being a prisoner (Belle), or a sexual assault victim (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White), or a 10-year-old bride (Pocahontas), or a secondary afterthought (Jasmine), is somehow magical or romantic.
Drysdale also doubles as Ariel, apparently so distraught with having given up her mermaid tail for a land-boy that’s she’s taken up drinking. In addition, she plays Rapunzel, who’s become a rather stern German Dominatrix.
Of course Princess Tiana (Cherise Thomas) is also there, though not in Frog form. Thomas’ vocals were also striking to me. Her voice filled the entire theatre and gave me goosebumps.
Last but not least is Mulan / Pocanhontas / Princess Badroulbadour (aka Jasmine) played by Ann Paula Batista. Again, Caryhn and I agree: She was the highlight of the show! The entire cast was hilarious, and their timing on point, but Batista’s stage presence, humour, timing, and facial expressions were perfect and stood out. She was also the source of our only beef.
While not the only Woman Of Colour in the cast, she was the only one (visibly Of Colour) to play multiple roles, ranging from Chinese, to Native American, to Arabian. Casting more racially diverse actors in the lead roles would be great (this is 2016, after all). Even though fun is poked at the racism and revisionist history in Mulan and Pocahontas, missing an opportunity to diversify the cast even more is rather ironic. It felt a bit lazy to me (though I understand that budget may have been a factor).
Overall, this was a fantastic show. The set, lighting, music, acting, singing, and especially the timing of the entire cast was excellent. We laughed the whole way through.
I’m personally not a fan of Disney movies—especially the Princess-y ones—so I’d be curious to see how a die-hard fan would react to Disenchanted! Hopefully they would understand that real life is nothing like fairy tales, and would enjoy this show for what it is: absolutely hilarious, smart, feminist, and ass-kicking parody.
- Disenchanted! is playing at The Randolph Theatre until Nov. 5, 2016
- Shows run Thursday to Saturday at 7:30pm
- Ticket prices range from $10 – $69, and are available online, or at the door one hour prior to show time.
Photo of cast by Dahlia Katz