Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Disenchanted
Mamches Productions
Review by David Edward Hughes


Caitlin Frances, Camilla Smith
(foreground), and Jessie Selleck

Photo by Fiely Matias
What with being a fan of such fairy-tale deconstructions as Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods and the ABC TV series Once Upon a Time, I was excitedly wary of seeing Disenchanted, a new musical revue with book, music and lyrics by (full disclosure, longtime friend) Dennis T. Giacino. Turns out this smart, sassy, and sweet-natured fun fest is the perfect hot summer weather hit, which its success in multiple other markets suggested it might be. For the new theatre company Mamches Productions (named for a beloved Seattle acting coach/teacher), it is an auspicious kick-off show, which supposes what a parade of storybook princesses have to say about their "happily" ever after and increasingly homogenized depictions by the House of Mouse and others.

Creator Giacino also directs this production with a strong assist from original director Fiely Matias, who is also credited as musical staging consultant. Most fortuitously, the creative team found six triple-threat talents to embody the 10 heroines evoked in the show. Caitlin Frances is a control freak, take-charge Snow White who doesn't suffer fools gladly, and who obviously learned a few tricks from her Evil Queen stepmother. Frances, one of Seattle's theatrical treasures, sells her every musical moment and barely breaks a sweat in a powerhouse turn. Jessie Selleck is a side-splitting delight as a rather dim-bulb yet exuberant Cinderella, and brings a kind of Judy Holliday beguiling presence to the festivities, contrasting with the third princess/hostess of the evening, Sleeping Beauty, as played with raucously fierce abandon by Ann Cornelius. This version of Princess Aurora is prone to falling asleep right before her big number, a clever running gag from Giacino's talented pen.

Doing expert triple duty as three princesses apiece are the versatile Gloria Alcala (Belle/The Little Mermaid/Rapunzel) and Aimee Karlin (Hua Mulan/Pochahontas/Badroulbadour). Alcala mines belly laughs out of all her ladies, while Karlin is a soulful balladeer and skillfully handles the implicit social whitewashing of her characters. Last but hardly least, Camilla Smith wails and nails her feature song "Finally" as The Princess Who Kissed the Frog. In a score full of delights, with clever rhymes and a piquant Alan Menken flavor, including "One More Happily Ever After," "All I Wanna Do is Eat," and "Secondary Princess," Giacino missteps only once, with a one-joke, one-laugh number called "Big Tits." But nearly every musical has a "weak sister" number, so that's easily forgiven.

Musical director Paul Linnes leads a trio of musicians who serve the score well. Being a new musical, unfamiliar to myself and most others, I lost lyrics partly from the challenging acoustics at 12th Ave Arts, though perhaps some extra-focused diction would help as well. The handsome unit set by Lex Marcos is really top notch, as are the bright and on-point costumes designed by Vanessa Leuck as recreated by costume coordinator Rebecca Maiten.

The innuendos about sexuality are mostly handled with discretion and would go over the heads of most wee ones, so I think it safe to say ages 8 and up would be my family friendly recommendation (precious kiddos not withstanding). Disenchanted is definitely a treat of a show, a respite from the heat as well as the overheated world we live in.

Disenchanted, through August 18th, 2018, at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave on Capitol Hill, Seattle WA. For tickets or information visit www.mamches.com.


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