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The Princess Complex: Little girls grow up with fairy tales about princesses who are rescued from some terrible fate by a dashing prince, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. These little girls may dress up as princesses, replay their favorite scene and dream of the day their prince will come. This all leads to the Princess Complex, a cultural enforced delusion of reality but in Disenchanted, the well-known Disney princesses that created these false expectations of life and love tell it like it really is, shattering the happily ever after ideal once and for all.


Disenchanted is a cabaret style variety show featuring familiar characters such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, who team up to MC the show, shedding light on the reality of princess-hood. Along with their friends, Belle, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, and others they challenge the many biases seen in traditional Disney princesses – they are mostly white, often culturally inappropriate, dependent on a man to save them and usually quite well endowed! The style of the show allows for direct engagement with the audience and even a little audience participation in the song calling out the extreme amount of commercialism associated with these beloved Disney fairy tales.


The cast was fantastic overall, bringing some unexpected versions of these household princesses to life with amazing voices and perfect comic timing. Merritt Crews plays the role of Snow White, the primary MC for the evenings shows. She flows between the high sing-songy voice expected of snow white and a gritty and powerful voice that belts some hysterical lyrics. Madison Hayes-Crook plays Cinderella who is a perfect mix of ditsy blond and exceptionally socially aware woman. Miriam Drysdale and Ann Paula Bautista take on three roles each covering The Little Mermaid, Belle, Rapunzel (Drysdale) and Mulan, Pocahontas, and Baldroulbadour (Bautista). They effortlessly move from character to character and back again. Uche Ama, as the princess who kissed the frog, and Danielle Richards, as Sleeping Beauty round out this phenomenal cast.


The costumes were creative and unique, capturing the spirit of the princesses everyone knows and loves but with a spunky and sassy twist. Designed by Vanessa Leuck and covered in sparkles, the costumes really added pizazz to the intimate show.  The Broadway Playhouse is a smaller theater allowing the audience to feel close to the performance and the simple yet elegant set design, by Gentry Akens, further enhances the cozy atmosphere. 


With song after song, joke after joke, Disenchanted will keep you laughing for the full hour and a half production. Book, music and lyrics by Dennis T Giancino, address every questionable aspect of the cherished Disney princesses including the fact that the real Pocahontas was actually a 10 year old girl who would not even dream of kissing John Smith unlike the mini skirt clad 20 year old pin up vixen the movie version, and questioning the mental state of a French book worm with an oddly American accent who thinks it is normal to talk to appliances. 


This show will forever transform the way you watch Disney movies and will remind you that life is not about perfect waistlines, dashing princes and happily ever after. It is packed full with so many subtle details that you will find yourself laughing for days after the show.


Disenchanted is playing at the Broadway Playhouse through June 5th. Get your tickets now for this unique and creative show.


Published in Theatre Reviews

The Chicago Musical Theater Festival is produced by the Underscore Theater Company as a forum for musical theater creators and artists to bring new musicals to the stage in a more low risk environment. In its second year, the fest features thirteen new works all sharing the stage in over 60 performances at The Den Theater.

Dirty Girl is presented by the New American Folk Theater, and was written by Anthony Whitaker. It is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story set in a fictitious trailer park in Georgia, 1987. Jennifer dreams of going to her prom, but has no date, no dress and no support from her step aunt or step cousins, Tami and Tammy, who lovingly refer to her as Dirty Girl. Lucky for her, her fairy god cousin by marriage comes to her rescue with a delightfully 80’s prom dress and a date with the most popular high school jock. But the prom is not the happily ever after Jennifer dreamed of and she learns that in real life there are no magical solutions to your problems and you have to find your own happy ending.

As the show shares the stage with thirteen other musicals during this festival, the set is very minimal. It is a black box style theater and they creatively maneuver a few chairs, a bench and a table to transport us from the trailer, to the school cafeteria, to the mall and of course the prom! The commitment of the actors to their over the top characters helps to fill the otherwise simple space.  

The show entertains with witty humor in both the dialog and songs, boasting more 1980’s references than you can count. The strongest singers are definitely the two main characters, Jennifer (Sarah Gise) and Randy/Troy (Kirk Jackson). Overall the acting was good, embracing the caricatures of the trailer park friends and family. Grant Drager’s portrayal of Tami is fantastic and just what you would want the trailer trash version of an ugly stepsister to be, while Coco Kasperowicz’s Tammy seemed to fluctuate in and out of character. The choreography was pretty kitschy with moves more commonly seen in an elementary school dance recital but somehow it seemed to work with the exaggerated stereotypes of the show. The costumes were colorful and just a bit tacky (as they should be!) with a bit of rebellious goth punk fashion tossed in for good measure.

Amidst all the overblown characters and silly songs, the show still draws you in and makes you care. When Jennifer takes ownership of her happy ending and reunites with Troy, the nerd who adores her, for a quiet night in watching a recording of the Dukes of Hazard special, it will warm your heart.

It may not be the clean and polished musical many are used to, but Dirty Girl is funny and full of characters that you will love or love to hate. If you grew up in the 80’s it will be especially entertaining, bringing back memories of neon spandex, taffeta prom dresses and big hair and sure to get a few laughs out of you.

Catch an upcoming performance Dirty Girl at The Den Theater as part of the Chicago Musical Theater Festival:

Wednesday, July 8th @ 9:30pm

Saturday, July 11th @ 5:30pm

Thursday, July 16th @6:00 pm

Sunday, July 19th @ noon

Published in Theatre Reviews



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