What the Heck Is Once Upon a One More Time?

I was going to take a longer hiatus from The Princess Blog while I adjust to life in my new castle and kingdom, but I recently found out about this atrocity and could not resist sharing my thoughts on it. As luck would have it, there is a new fairy tale parody musical making its rounds to Broadway as if we don't already have enough of those with Into the Woods, Disenchanted The Musical, and Shrek The Musical. However, Into the Woods and Shrek at least put their own spin on the fairy tales of old instead of attempting to profit off the highly successful Disney versions. If the previews for Once Upon a One More Time are any indication, this new musical veers more in the direction of Disenchanted with blatant Party City Disney ripoff costumes mixded with the pop musical stylings of Britney Spears.

Cast of Once Upon a One More Time

Fairy tale and princess-themed musicals were once known for their beautiful and original songs performed by talented actresses. As princesses are introduced to the woke era, their music has become more homogenous-sounding with songs you might hear on the radio.. The most recent example of this is Amazon Prime's new Cinderella adaptation starring Camila Cabello, which was toughed as "jukebox musical." The modern era pop style music in this film set the scene for future generations of fairy tale-inspired musicals. Instead of creating new theatrical numbers, Once Upon a One More Time uses old '90s hits from the discography of former pop star Britney Spears to carry the show's feminist-driven plot. Not only is this new Broadway musical unable to create its own original songs, but its enite soundtrack is limited solely to a single artist. This isn't the first modern musical to back up its plot with nostalgic tunes from the '90s. The new West End production, & Juliet, uses familiar-sounding pop songs to give a modern feminist twist to Shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet, with questionable results.

Once Upon a One More Time show poster

The plot of Once Upon a One More Time reads as follows:
"Beloved classic fairytale princesses gather for their fortnightly book club, longing for a new story. When a rogue fairy godmother drops The Feminine Mystique into their corseted laps, it spurs a royal revelation: there is more to life than bird-made dresses and true love’s kiss!"
The problem with this non-conformist message is that when every fairy tale is rewritten to support the modern-day Disney Princess trope, it reverts back to another message about conformity that points in the opposite direction. Criticisms aboutt the Disney Princesses' tendency to become victims, penhant for falling in love, and passion for traditional feminine values were once met with strong arguments from fans and production crews alike. Today, these criticisms are taken as a given, and Disney has been adamantly attempting to rewrite these  stories to appeal to dissenters as though admitting that their beloved characters that they have been profiting off for years are, in fact, problematic. Though Once Upon a One More Time is not backed by Disney, it comes as a direct result of the "princess" image that Disney has attempted to reinvent over the past decade.

Movie poster for Brave New Girl

Of course, that is not to say that the music of Britney Spears or stories with feminist themes have no place in today's culture. Britney once backed a made-for-TV movie called Brave New Girl about an aspiring singer who had trouble being taken seriously in a pretentious performing arts school due to her love of pop songs. This film was an excellent way to showcase Britney's music and the theme of women overcoming diversity in a way that didn't come off as contrived. The use of fairy tales, on the other hand, just doesn't work for this purpose. Most fairy tales--especially the ones involving princesses--end with the protagonist getting everything she wants. Even the original story of "The Little Mermaid," which is often perceived as a tragedy, concludes with the mermaic protagonist obtaining a chance for the soul she so desired. Introducing fairy tale characters to feminism and telling them there's more to life than overcoming the tragic circumstances of their childhood and living in a castle filled with love and everything they could possibly desire seems--Dare I say it?--selfish and primitive.

I used to get excited when I heard about upcoming princess shows, but now I often find myself feeling skeptical or annoyed. In the case of Once Upon a One More Time, it is definitely the latter. I have never seen a show so focused on profitting off the works of other artists with virtually no effort of its own. It seems like this musical is the slime that gushed out of a blender after mixing together a bunch of old pop culture icons. It will never be the next Into the Woods because it doesn't have an original enough story, nor will it be the next Disenchanted because it doesn't tout any original songs. Since the inciting incident involves a book that was written in 1963 called The Feminine Mystique, it can't even take credit for coming  up with its own progessive values. If this show makes you as angry as it makes me, I will leave you on a positive note with a new music video from a recent princess show that actually got it right, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella.

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