The Nicely Group presents DISENCHANTED, an Off Broadway Musical, now through January 29, available to stream on the internet while theatres are dark. This was a difficult endeavor to pull off, but there were very talented people who made the technology a success.
The show opens with three princesses telling us the familiar story how each girl met her prince, predictably and instantly fell in love with him, then came together in holy matrimony. Then the trio revealed the fairy tales are fake news, and their reality was never “happily ever after.” I was thinking this must be a clever plot twist, like Wizard of Oz juxtaposed with Wicked. I was disenchanted. This is mostly about spoiled brats who are way out of touch with reality.
Snow White appears to be ring leader of the malcontents. The various misanthropes envision themselves as Norma Rae, a young Southern woman working at a cotton mill, who promulgates efforts to reform working conditions by unionizing the downtrodden. These delusional princesses are no Norma Rae. Norma Rae fought the oligarchs. Her message was about caring for the health of the shop workers. People were falling dead in the shop. Norma Rae was a single mother struggling to survive. In a year when people have died from Covid, when people have lost their jobs, when families are suffering, these shrews have the nerve to bemoan their status as royalty. This reminds me of The Queen’s speech that went viral – you know, the monarch who bunged 76 million pounds a year, sitting in front of a lavish 24 karat golden piano in the palace she’s billing taxpayers 369 million pounds a year to tart up, lecturing the nation to make sacrifices.
The first vignette is Belle from Beauty and The Beast. At one point she wields a butcher knife and makes stabbing gestures, as if she is so disappointed with her lot in life she wants to murder someone. She also reveals her desire to commit arson. I wish Henry VIII had married her, he would know how to deal with her ungrateful behavior. Belle invokes the name of Walt Disney in quite the blasphemous way – which is overwhelmingly disrespectful when taken in the context of Disney’s overall achievements. She claims the life of being a princess is driving her insane. She crossed that road long ago.
On the bright side, the actress who portrays Belle has a gorgeous voice. It is a delight to listen to her, even if you want to push her character off a cliff to make room for someone who appreciates the good fortune which befell the bookworm. The plot is counterintuitive. Belle was a feminist who stood up to The Beast – she was compassionate and saw inner beauty. This Belle is massively shallow and reprehensible.
Cinderella is characterized as a bimbo who sniffs magic markers to get high. Her job is to introduce each princess. She is featured in a vignette about fat-shaming. The message in “All I Want To Do Is Eat” is reminiscent of the torture that Louis B Mayer subjected Judy Garland to, which included purposefully drugging her with amphetamines, ultimately leading to Garland’s death. The traditional Cinderella story portrayed Cinderella as being abused by her step mother. In this show, Snow White is abusive toward her, which makes the Snow White character impossible to like. Snow White was not accompanied by the 7 dwarves. Apparently they were in quarantine because of close contact with Sneezy. Or perhaps they just couldn’t stand being around the trollop. You know, everytime she was near them they would sing, “High Hoe.”
Mulan rescues the show after 10 minutes of trailer trash mentality by singing about self-discovery. She realizes she might be a lesbian. Well, good for her, maybe she knows some techniques to bring some pleasure into the life of the princesses who are unhappy with their men. She is delightful to watch, she emotes well and has a good stage presence. She reminds me of Lea Salonga, who voiced Jasmine and Mulan in the Disney animations. Her vignette was uplifting and triumphant. She showed that a woman can be self-actualizing, and she owns responsibility for her happiness, without blaming her decisions on a man.
The Little Mermaid is an alcoholic who appears to have substituted drinking sea water with vermouth and gin. She laments having given up her life in the sea and now possessing legs she has to shave. This has got to be one of the most insensitive, disrespectful whining I have ever heard. Covid 19 causes atypical hypercoagulability, causing development of thromboses, and patient after patient have had to have legs amputated since the pandemic began. She states she wishes her man would throw her back into the sea. I wish her husband were Robert Wagner – he would be happy to do a Natalie Wood on the shrew.
Pocahontas has a legitimate complaint. She asks why her story cannot be told honestly. There is a painting of the historical Pocahontas in the Rotunda of the U S Capitol, assuming somebody didn’t recently loot it. That painting allegedly presents Pocahontas more attractive than what she truly was. And the story about interceding to save John Smith’s life was probably a lie, according to some scholars. Pocahontas may have been simply the object of male romantic desire situated in pristine, unspoiled America. Furthermore she may have been a pawn in the imperialistic drive to overtake Native American Land because “they were only doing it to Christianize the savage heathens.” Whatever her role was, it began at age 10 and she only lived until 21, so her true story probably had some salacious aspects of pedophilia in the mix. That is why her story was not told honestly. We probably don’t want to know the honest truth.
Sleeping Beauty appears to be a wino who has passed out from too much imbibing the fruit of the vine. She snores quite loudly. That’s not funny – snoring is a medical condition. Alcoholism is a medical condition, and during Covid, the isolation and trauma to families has caused issues like drug and alcohol addition to surge. More than 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States. It is devastating to families. Coping mechanisms involving self-medicating are a serious social issue, and now is not the time to treat alcoholism as a cheap joke. Sleeping Beauty’s featured song is about solipsistic obsession. After the past four years, I really don’t want to hear a self-absorbed narcissist tell me about how perfect and amazing they are. It was meant to be inspirational, but it comes off as out of touch with all the suffering going on around us.
I enjoyed the positive attitude shown by The Princess Who Kissed The Frog. She sees her royal status as a privilege, and also a victory for people of color to have leading roles in cinema. She is to be commended for looking at the positive, especially during this time of darkness and despair.
There were many aspects of the show that I liked. The camera work and editing is stupendous. The costumes are wonderful. All the actresses are talented. The director is highly talented. I wish they had chosen an uplifting play that gives people hope. To everything there is a season, and this is not the time for rich people to be complaining about how unfulfilling their lives are. This show touts itself as hilarious. Perhaps to a sociopath. The plot in this play is utterly insulting to the community, which has truly suffered for the past year.
Sound Quality: The sound quality was perfect. This was performed using high tech equipment. The sound comes through with excellent fidelity.
Acting: Compared to many musicals, like The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, or West Side Story, there is minimal “acting.” This is mostly young ladies singing a song in front of a camera. Pocahontas was raking leaves, but that is what I would consider minimal acting. It is highly unlikely Pocahontas (not her real name) ever raked leaves. It is not part of the Algonquian culture. Raking leaves implies they are rubbish or undesirable and should be gathered for eradication. My DNA indicates I have Native American ancestry. My family tree shows my Native American ancestors and their names. One of my grandmothers lived her life highly aligned with Native American culture. There was almost nothing that suggested Pocahontas was “acting” like an “Indian.” Cinderella posed for the camera, but didn’t really have much “action.” Sleeping Beauty slept. Then she arose and there was an argument with Snow White about whether Sleeping Beauty could still perform her solo. Snow White looked through a mirror frame at times; at other times she did not. Mulan twirled an umbrella and demonstrated some fighting moves. The Princess Who Kissed The Frog told us she had kissed the frog. Mermaid and Belle added some acting while they sang, but since most of the musical is driven by solos, interaction does not play a key role in the musical.
Voices: The voices were clear. Each actor enunciated well. I felt that many notes were slightly off pitch, and there was not a distinguishing tone between some of the singers. We recognize Luciano Pavarotti when we hear him and can easily distinguish him from Elvis Presley. There was not a lot of variety in the singers’ voices, although The Princess That Kissed the Frog did have a unique voice, which made her stand out as exceptional.
Costumes: The costumes were one of the best features in this show. Mermaid went out of her way to add bandages on her legs to indicate shaving cuts. Snow White’s frock was bold and appealing. The Princess Who Kissed the Frog was dazzling.
Lighting: The lighting was exceptional, and this appeared to have been filmed on highly technical stage. At no time were the actors subjected to poor lighting.
Props: This was a minimalist production, with minimal props. The focus was on each actor’s solo. Unlike The Wizard of Oz, or even Cinderella, this show was not designed to be a spectacle. All of the props used were appropriate.
Set Decorations: The sets were practical. They were realistic and appropriate. I commend the people who came together to create the sets, considering how working together during a pandemic was a true challenge. All of the people who worked on this project deserve a lot of credit for their contributions. I don’t know many people who would have left their homes to do this endeavor.
DISENCHANTED was produced by Nicely Theatre Group. Available on demand through January 29 2021. This production was filmed at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts, in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Nicelytheatregroup.org
Amie Dasher (Savannah, GA) as Cinderella
Jennifer Jones (Rochester Hills, MI) as Sleeping Beauty
Alexa Carollo (Bloomfield Twp. MI) as Belle
Kai Stidham (Washington, MI) as The Little Mermaid
Cat Menzies (Rochester Hills, MI) as Hua Mulan
Lexa Maxa (Detroit, MI) as Pocahontas
and N’Jeri Nicholson (Hazel Park, MI) as The Princess who Kissed the Frog
All images courtesy Nicely Group