Review: 'Disenchanted' is huge fun in Tampa

Disney princesses come to life on stage, and they're mad

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 16, 2014 

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Michelle Knight plays Snow White in "Disenchanted," which runs through April at the Straz Center in Tampa. PUBLICITY PHOTO

In the Disney movie, Pocahontas is hot. She has flowing, silky hair that reaches her waist, which is as big around as her forearm. She has large breasts and wears a short, tight dress. When she meets John Smith she falls instantly in love

In real life Pocahontas was a hero. She bravely saved people's lives and died very young. She was not especially attractive. When she met John Smith, she was 10 years old.

In a song in the middle of "Disenchanted," Pocahontas sings about that disparity. Why, she asks, was such a life story not good enough? Why did Disney have to turn the valiant child into a curvaceous adult?

It's on of the most substantial and poignant moments in "Disenchanted," with a beautiful performance by Lulu Picart as the "real" Pocahontas. The rest of "Disenchanted" is a lot sillier than that song, but the entire show is smart, very funny and even subversive.

"Disenchanted" has evolved over the past few years from a couple of songs in a cabaret show to a hit musical that caused a sensation at the Orlando Fringe Festival and later had a successful run in Sarasota.

It's now residing at the

Jaeb Theatre, one of the smaller venues at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, for an extended run. After it closes in Tampa it's slated to go off-Broadway.

The idea behind the show is that a bunch of iconic female characters from fairy tales, folklore and history are unhappy with the way they're been portrayed in pop culture. They're tired of being depicted as helpless Barbies in distress who are just waiting for their prince to come.

It's performed as a cabaret show, song-heavy and almost plotless.

The music, book and lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino and Fiely Matias are fun and clever. But even more than the material, it's the ridiculously talented cast, especially Picart and Michelle Knight, that makes "Disenchanted" so much fun. The singing is glorious and the comic timing is spot on. Kali Rabaut, who plays Belle, the Little Mermaid, and Rapunzel, is a veteran of many Manatee Players shows, most recently "Crazy for You." And Orlando's Ericka Dunlap, who plays The One Who Kissed the Frog, is a former Miss America.

Costumes by Vanessa Leuck and the work of the band led by Michael Raabe, who's best known for his work with freeFall Theatre, are other highlights.

Sometimes "Disenchanted" is a little sillier than it needs to be. Some songs and some gags go on too long, and a recurring gag involving Sleeping Beauty is repeated way, way too often. Also, the scenic design by Gentry Akens goes overboard in its attempt to be cartoonish and ends up looking cheesy, like something from a high school prom.

"Disenchanted" is still a work in progress, and no doubt some of those problems will be amerliorated by the time it gets to New York, and maybe even during its run in Tampa. But even with those faults, "Disenchanted," is completely entertaining, clever from start to finish and, at its best moments, intellectually stimulating.

Details: It runs through April 13 at the Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $40 plus service charge. Call 813-229-7828 or go to www.strazcenter.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.

Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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