Review: Disenchanted! The Musical

Disenchanted the Musical is a project that began in 2009 and made its way to off-Broadway theaters in 2012. Not to be confused with the upcoming Disney+ sequel to Enchanted, this stage show is a parody of the Disney Princess brand that is in no way sanctioned by Disney, as proven by the public domain-approved character autographs on the poster. The show contains far too many Disney-specific references to be an interpretative musical about fairy tales in the vein of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. Disenchanted! is far less sophisticated than Into the Woods with a focus on low-brow humor and an overall lack of plot, which explains why it never could have been a contender for the elite world of Broadway. It must instead settle for off-Broadway and low-budget local productions like the one I streamed over the weekend. The show's childish humor about cartoon princesses might imply that it is meant for very young audiences, but the light swearing and song about boobs imply otherwise, which makes me wonder what sort of audience it is intended for.

Disenchanted poster of darts tossed into an apple containing public domain-approved signatures of all the Disney Princesses

I saw an ad for Disenchanted! on Facebook a few years ago, and it peaked my interest enough to research some songs and clips, but not enough to make travel plans to see it it at some faraway venue. Times have changed since then. Nowadays, entertainment is created with the intent that people will be able to watch it from home. When I saw a new ad for a small theater in Michigan that was offering livestream tickets, I decided to sign up for the Fenton Village Players' performance so I could finally see what all the fuss was about. The production I streamed over the weekend was extremely low budget with no costumes or sets and poor audio quality. The only actress who tried to dress up for her role was Cinderella, who wore a nice dress. Between the performance I watched, the song clips from the official website, and other videos I had seen from the show online, I was able to get the overall gist of the musical. For the most part, Disenchanted! is about a group of Disney Princesses led by Snow White who sing about how terrible their lives are. 


Now that this show is over a decade old, I think the idea behind it is too outdated to be enjoyable. Poking fun at princesses was a big fad when the Disney Princess brand was first introduced in the early 2000s with movies like Shrek and Enchanted that recoded the DNA of what it means to be a fairy tale princess, paving the way for the modern era in which Disney redefined it unironically. It no longer makes sense to sing about being tired of the ballgown-wearing damsel in distress waiting for a prince to rescue her because modern princesses wear pants and rescue their own kingdoms. Most of the jokes in this show are tired and overused, which mitigates the humor. Those of us who still dream of romance and ballgowns have trouble relating to princesses who dislike them, and quite frankly, the bitter attitudes behind the princesses of Disenchanted! are uncharacteristic of the girls they are imitating. The only two princesses whose songs I found charming and believable were Pocahontas, who sang about how disappointed she was by the many historical inaccuracies of her movie and Tiana, who sang about how pleased she was to be the first black Disney Princess.

As a narrative structure, Disenchanted! incorporates a series of vignettes in which Snow White summons various princesses from her mirror. There is very little dialogue outside of these introductions, and most songs have little to do with the one that preceded them. The only running gag throughout the show is Sleeping Beauty falling asleep whenever it is her turn to sing until the finale in which she sings the song "Perfect" with the other princesses. A narcoleptic "Sleeping Beauty" is a gat that has been done to death even though she never spontaneously falls asleep in her fairy tale outside of the initial curse. The final message of the show is that the princesses aren't as perfect as the movies make them out to be, but they're still perfect just the way they are. Did they really need a two-hour long play just to tell us that? As a lover of princesses, I found very little to enjoy about this spiteful look at beloved Disney classics. Some of the gags were quite a stretch, such as Ariel complaining about having to shave her new legs. It must have been difficult for the show's writers to come up with something for such famously optimistic characters to complain about.

Overall, Disenchanted! The Musical is an outdated low-brow satire made for people who dislike the Disney Princess brand as it was when it started in the early 2000s. It no longer applies to the new kickass princesses that Disney has been promoting over the past few years, and the jokes have been done to death in other movies and shows. The minor swearing and sexual references are inappropriate for kids, but the potty humor and trite gags are uninspiring for adults. The only audience that I think could possibly enjoy this show is college kids who have been drinking heavily. In that respect, it might be a good contender for a Vegas casino. Aside from that, it has little to offer to older fans of Disney Princess movies, as they are unlikely to agree with its bitter sentiments about these beloved characters.

Comments

PrincessContent said…
Hi there! It’s been a while. :)

Sad to hear that this musical was a disappointment. And I must say I got a bit upset to hear that the streamed version was that low-budged! I mean, even if it’s streamed, people are paying to see it so they should have good camera work and the actresses should be in costume! Very unprofessional…

I did look up Pocahontas’ song though and I agree that it’s a charming song. A dark joke that, compared to the other out-dated princess jokes, is still relevant and will be in till the day we have reached more and better native American representation in the media.
Lisa Dawn said…
It's always good to hear from you! :)

Ordinarily, I would agree that the stream should have been better quality, but it was performed by a community theater in Michigan, an area that is not very well-known for the arts. Plus, their website said that most people at the theater are volunteers. The tickets were pretty cheap, so I just have to take it for what it is. It's amazing they were able to do a show at all when the pandemic is still happening.
PrincessContent said…
<3

Aha, ok! Then I immediately take back my harsh criticism!

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