This isn't your child's Cinderella story.
Disenchanted turns the classic Disney children's stories on their heads, bringing the characters of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and others to the front of the stage for a vaudevillian evening of songs, dance, and laughs. They never quite become "vaude-villains," but they definitely push the envelope on tastefulness and stretch your imagination to the max.
Six princesses in total ask the audience to see beyond the fairy-tale endings we cherish, and to see the stories going on behind the fairy dust. Snow White, played by Michelle Knight, is the queen of ceremonies, shining in the spotlight and propelling your vision of her well beyond the sweetness commonly attached to her. One by one, she helps tear down stereotypes, cliches, and assumptions about what we perceive about these characters and their associative stories; the show is less a retelling of the classics and more a satirical tribute to women's liberation and literature.
It's fun when it works and pays off. For instance, in a full-cast number "All I Wanna Do Is Eat" the women reflect on how much of a commitment comes with staying fit enough to be perceived of as a slender and desirable princess. This, among other successful and resonant tunes, rings true as a message for princesses and non-princesses alike. But some other songs miss the mark when they focus too heavily on undermining the stories themselves and to poke holes in -- and fun at -- wandering plot lines. "Finally," for one, a song about Disney's first black princess in The Princess and the Frog, never establishes itself as more than a one-note joke that drags on for too long.
All in all, the show is an innovation worth considering. Dennis T. Giancino injects a great deal of fun and humor into the book, music, and lyrics, but it's really the physical comedy of the starring cast that gets the biggest laughs. There are too many unexpected spots for sharp and strong facial expressions and silent commentary to count. These are what really bring the house down. Just when you think you've seen it all, they come back with a little bit more.
Disenchanted plays at the Westside Theatre.