Playwright: Dennis T. Giacino. At: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St. Tickets: 800-775-2000; BroadwayInChicago.com; $35.75-$78.75. Runs through: June 5
An all-female cast brings the musical DISENCHANTED! to reality, with some mixed results. Princesses from the past are placed in a talent show, trying to impress the audience. Even the title tries a bit hard, with all capital letters and an exclamation mark.
Dennis T. Giacino was a history teacher who likes to keep it real in this production presented by Broadway In Chicago and Starvox Entertainment. He makes several good points such as missing accents and historical facts not being accurate in past cartoon portrayals.
The Grimm Brothers are brought up because many of the tales are based on their original stories. Beauty and the Beast is written from a French novelist, Mulan from a Chinese ballad and Aladdin is based on a Middle Eastern folk taleso why are these included if the plot is about the Grimms' writings? Well, there's the big unspoken mouse in the room, Disney, with all of the film adaptations, of course.
Merritt Crews leads the six-woman show and right from the beginning she sports confidence, along with a nice set of pipes in the Snow White role. Daniella Richards has a few scene-stealing moments as Sleeping Beauty. Miriam Drysdale plays characters like The Little Mermaid and Belle with gusto. Ann Paula Bautista might be my favorite because she makes us want to root for her. Uche Ama arrives late in the show but makes up for lost time with a number about racism for The Princess Who Kissed the Frog.
There is not much of plot besides a group of princesses putting on a cabaret-styled variety show with the fourth wall broken down the whole time and a lot of mishaps. One princess comes out of the closet, one goes loco and another gets her sea legs back.
DISENCHANTED! is recommended for ages 14 and above so leave the kiddies at home. What audience is the show intended for, though? Mothers who are sick of the princess paraphernalia? Fans of fairy tales who want them more realistic? Bachelorette parties that want to see girl power onstage? Who knowsbut they better find it quickly.
Several of the references are older and are already outdated. The audience-participation song "Not V'one Red Cent" doesn't work and is as awkward as Rapunzel's hair. This show doesn't remember that Belle was book-smart and not immediately swept off her feet by a man, but instead puts her in straitjacket for seeing talking silverware. Several of the strides that Walt Disney Productions have made in the past few years are conveniently skipped.
The show works well when it does its homework and calls attention to inconsistencies in movies over the years. From dieting to feminism, there is something for everyone to take away and not leave the theater DISENCHANTED!