Musical revue Disenchanted takes a deeper look at the lives of Disney princesses and whether happy ever after is all that
“One more once upon a time and I swear I’ll go insane”
Revisiting fairytale endings and reclaiming female historical narratives will be familiar to fans of Into the Woods and SIX but Dennis T Giacino’s Disenchanted attempts to tackle both in an ambitious if patchy musical comedy. Returning to some of the characters so familiar from our storybooks, the show gives them new voice to explain what life as a ‘princess’ is really and how the stories we’ve been told don’t necessarily reflect ‘reality’.
In some ways, this is powerfully effective. You can’t help but hear echoes of Thandiwe Newton’s recent decision in Badroulbadour’s story of how her name and ethnicity were changed in order to become a secondary character in Aladdin. Or nod at Mulan’s recognition that the reason she’s one of the only princesses not to end up with a partner is because she’s a lesbian. Throw in commentary on typical cup size and waist measurements and you see how much social conditioning has gone on through this mode of storytelling.
Giacino’s lyrical sharpness also means there’s a good deal of comedy contained within which is all fine and good. But when a number called ‘Big Tits’ is followed by the impassioned plea to recognise the horrific indignities inflicted upon Pocahontas both as a character and as a historical figure, you’d be forgiven for Googling how to deal with whiplash. And for a revue – this is a loosely linked set of songs rather than a fully-fleshed book musical – Giacino’s score doesn’t distinguish itself with enough musical identity to soar.
What works best in Tom Jackson Greaves’ production for West End Musical Productions is a highly charismatic cast. Jodie Steele, Sophie Isaacs and Allie Daniel play bawdy and broad as the comperes-of-sorts of the show – a forthright Snow White, a simpering Cinders and a narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty respectively. And Natalie Chua and Courtney Bowman stand out among the rest as the aforementioned Mulan and Badroulbadour, known on film as Jasmine.