OnStage Calgary Critic
There are only a few real outlets for musical theatre in Calgary. Cappuccino Musical Theatre is one that’s been around for nearly 25 years with endless entertainment. “Disenchanted” is their latest project, presented in the Joyce Doolittle at Pumphouse Theatre.
This cabaret style production follows ten princesses – played by nine actresses – who are sick of being “Disney-fied” and are now fighting back. Through mostly song, but a little bit of dance, and comedy, these women spend an hour and a half sending the audience into fits of laughter. Every song was funnier than the last – with one or two exceptions – and every actress brought a distinctly entertaining character to the table; sometimes two.
To start off, Andrea O’Brien plays Snow White, the host of the event and the sassiest original princess I have ever seen. She carried herself with light and regality and her voice was absolutely astounding. She had such a sweet tone and her belt was incredibly strong – though I could hear her pushing towards the end of the night – which makes perfect sense because her melodic voice and dry sarcasm absolutely carried the show to the finale. She looked phenomenal – her costume complimented her personality and brought the character together so well. I thought Andrea nailed.
Sleeping Beauty, played by Danielle Bernardin, was another host of the show. This narcoleptic, ungraceful princess was absolutely hilarious. Danielle carried a lot of her character in her body – and her hair – almost aggressive in her movements, and nearly distracted from forgetting choreography; to which I’ll say I wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t looked around in panic. For the rest of the show, I loved her personality, and her character was such a great foil to the other dainty princesses I thought it was a perfect balance.
I especially think she was a good balance to the dainty, ditzy, and mousey Cinderella played by Jillian Bauer. Jillian’s Cinderella was dumb as a brick, sounded like Britney Spears, and unwittingly became a lesbian. In concept, it is hilarious; in practice, I couldn’t fully describe my disbelieving laughter. There were a few moments that felt like she needed to fill time so she was reaching for a laugh and I’m not sure if I should attribute that to Jillian or director Bryan Smith. Overall, I thought she was very funny. Her unexpected sound somehow fit into her character but I noticed that her facial expressions didn’t match the personality the rest of her body was portraying.
Then came the individual princesses – the ones invited to the show to sing about their struggles.
First was Belle, played by Cait Margaret. This woman was so entertaining to watch. She was so bubbly and so squeaky but because of that, I sometimes had trouble understanding her. I loved her energy but I need a little more articulation to really enjoy her.
Hong Minh, I think had nearly the opposite challenge. Playing Hua Mulan, I could clearly understand the words she was saying but she was so quiet and her movements were so demure which didn’t match the text. When she was in her middle range and got a little more into the song, I could see her enjoying herself but it never quite reached where I thought she could be.
Then came The Little Mermaid played by Jackie Thurber. Long before she was Ariel, the Little Mermaid was an angry drunk and deeply regretted the life choices she made as a teenager. Jackie absolutely embodied that. She was crude, stumbling, and played with the crowed just enough. I wanted even more from her. The drunker, the funnier, in this case.
Following her was Pocahontas, played by Aya Staley, who later plays Princess Baldroubadour – commonly known as Princess Jasmine. In general, I thought Aya had a beautiful and lyrical voice but she was too calm. This made her voice grow quiet and her diction softened. It didn’t help that the songs that were written for her characters were very subdued and brought the energy of the show straight down. That is not Aya’s fault; however, I think what would have helped was more movement and sharper words.
Next was Lausanne MacKay with her version of a cartoonishly German Rapunzel. The music was somewhat comic – there were certainly funnier texts in the show – but what sold it for me was Lausanne. She committed to her character and played to the crowed with such ease. I do think her “bit” went on a little too long and, while entertaining, her motivation wasn’t made clear which is something I’m going to put on the director once again. But Lausanne maintained composure, amped up her character’s quirks, and she kept the energy going which made her one of the most entertaining numbers of the night.
Finally we came to The Princess Who Kissed the Frog, later known as Tiana. Sherry Buroker played the “first black storybook princess” with plenty of sass and attitude. Her movements felt a little stiff or over-rehearsed which isn’t a bad thing but it’s something that stood out to me because her voice was so pretty. I wanted her movement and her sound to match.
All of the ladies were decked out in gorgeous costumes – created by Mikee Aimes – that well suited their personality and their character. Some were recreations of the Disney costumes rather than adaptions of the concepts but they were well assembled, seemed to fit the women, and matched the character and music they were presenting.
Meg Martin’s choreography was concisely executed – to the best of my knowledge – and suited the numbers being presented. I have no complaints. Similar to the musical direction by Bryan Smith and Matt Ryan, as far as I know, the band performed splendidly. The conductor and the rest of the players had no direct line of sight to the stage and so everything is run on sound. Firstly, I applaud their approach to this challenge, and secondly, it was executed well from an audience perspective.
One thing that really stuck in my mind was the lighting design by Bryan Smith. It felt a little scattered – like it was programed in a rush – and when the lighting and the actor didn’t sync up, it was very distracting. It felt as though there was movement for the sake of movement and on the more than one occasion, the actor was completely out of their light. Part of that – I assume – is not enough rehearsal between the actor and the lighting board but it was very distracting when something was going wrong.
In general, I loved the concept. I am a huge Disney nerd and I enjoy raunchy Disney parodies. There were some songs that did not appeal to me but as an ensemble, these girls were phenomenal. It was hilarious and a little dirty and I would absolutely go and see this show 1001 more times. I wish they had had a little time to fine tune but overall, a fantastic production.