Questioning the Princess Complex The Hilarious Way With ‘Disenchanted’

Whether you’re a dedicated Disney fanatic or a dedicated Disney detractor, you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy in Disenchanted, a raunchy send-up of princesses new and old that will be playing for only one more weekend at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse thanks to MNM Theatre Company. Brought to you by your “hosts,” Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, the concept of the show is that it is a revue a gaggle of Disney princesses are putting on to express their dissatisfaction with the way they are portrayed in the famous films. And they’ve also got a few objections to the oppressively narrow standards of behavior they are expected to adhere to, from keeping their “cherry intact til marriage” and waiting until they find their prince to come to being left behind to do keep up with housework while the men go off on all the real adventures.

Disenchanted Cast

As a young woman who grew up watching Disney princess movies—and grown into a kind of love-hate relationship with their stories and the flawed ideal they convey- I’m also pretty damn sure that the disgruntled royal ladies are describing an all-too-real phenomenon in identifying what they call a “Princess Complex” that asserts that women are only “desirable and valid” if they’re a “beauty-obsessed, ditzy, insecure Bambi-like waif.”

And although you may have heard such points argued before, you’ve probably never heard them argued in as hilarious a form as show’s creator Dennis T. Giacino gives them in this rollicking crowd-pleaser of a show. 

First of all, I was happy to see women with a diverse array of body types represented on stage as well as those who appeared to span a large age rangeprincesses, after all, grow up like anyone else. A talented cast of some of South Florida’s sharpest leading ladies engage in some decidedly and hilariously un-princesslike behavior as they present this unconventional cabaret. 

I could not only identify no weak links in the lineup but had almost the opposite problemany time I was about ready to call one or another number the highlight, I was wowed by another of these spectacular performers. 

Not to say that the show is an all-together flawless creation— and because some of the jokes lean more towards the silly or crude than the clever side, I’d say this is an evening that might be more improved than most by one’s indulgence in a pre-show cocktail or two. Yet though there may be one or two songs I might have cut or rewritten for the proceedings, there is not one to be found that the actors don’t do their utmost to redeem. 

Kat Gold

For instance, though “Insane” the first solo Leah Sessa is given, about a Belle driven batty by her chatty furniture, is one of the show’s less compelling numbers, the actress conveyed her character with an incredible physicality even while confined to a straitjacket. Yet she manages to be even funnier when granted the full use of her form in “Two Legs”, in which her version of the Little Mermaid is trashy, beer-guzzling, tattooed, and consumed by regret for throwing away her tail for a man. 

Aaron Bower’s irreverent portrayal of Sleeping Beauty makes for plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, as Shelley Keelor tries to keep all the kooky princesses in line as their MC and makeshift leader. Ashley Rubin is a perfect ditzy Cinderella, and Jinon Deeb’s portrayal of Pocohantas and Princess Badroulbadour (aka Jasmine). 

Then, after Kat Gold’s self-assured portrayal of a Hua Mulan who happens to be questioning her sexuality as she wonder why hers is the only Disney story absent the expected “prince-meets-princess” happy ending, she reemerges just as headstrong in “Not Vone Red Cent” as an even more fearsomely confident Rapunzel, though the number itself eventually gets a bit tiresome in a few too many repetitions of its chorus. 

Vallery Valentine

Also, like Insane, it may not be a number I thought resonated as much because there was less of an obvious connection to the real world; like the issue of talking cutlery, the issue of fictional characters not being adequately compensated for their appearance in mouse-house merchandise simply has less obvious real-life applicability than did still-uproariously funny numbers that touch on more applicable issues of representation, equality, and the oppressive tyranny of the male gaze alluded to in the weightier numbers. 

And, speaking of weight, I would classify “All I Wanna Do Is Eat” as an example of the latter. Yes, as hilarious as it is to watch the desperation with which dieting princesses might crave a candy bar (or, in Ariel’s case, plot to eat her fishy best friend), I can also say from experience that the gags don’t strike me as a particularly unrealistic depiction of the level of preoccupation with food that starving one’s self tends to foster. 

Looking just at the Disney princesses—or, in fact, at much of conventional western media—it is indeed easy to come away with the idea that being unnaturally slender is the only way to qualify as someone worthy of being the main character of her own story, which is one of the many ways in which the thin ideal can drive unhealthy behavior. And, of course, there’s the fact that every princess has “Big Tits,” to go along with her impossibly tiny waist, an attribute that gets its own rousing concept number. 

Disenchanted Cast (L-R): Vallery Valentine, Jinon Deeb, Shelley Keelor, Aaron Bower, Ashley Rubin, Leah Sessa. (missing: Kat Gold)

A visual pun on knockers that ensues in costuming is also but one example of this production taking full advantage of the concept of the characters putting on the show themselves, from conspicuously DIY costumes and set pieces to the fact that even the show’s ASM joins in the fun as the orderly shuttling Belle back to the asylum and dons a fish hat while moving Ariel’s grotto.

Another standout was the genuinely triumphant Act One finale “Finally,” which actress Vallery Valentine knocks out of the park, and which speaks to just how much joy the first Black Disney princess takes in being the one to add some color to what has been, historically, a sea of white. And, as funny as the number is, it also speaks to a genuine need for more diversity in the type of women we see “allowed” to be princesses on screen. Tiana is indeed a great start, but where are our fat Disney princesses, our lesbian Disney princesses, or even a trans Disney prince? Whether the mouse ever changes its ways or new creators have to take up the mantle, we have so much further to go. 

In any case, if you’ve been growing a bit disenchanted with Disney magic but not enough so that you’d be averse to joining a few of your favorites characters to share a good laugh at Walt’s expensethen Disenchanted may be just the show for you. You have only one more weekend to catch it at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse, playing only until this May 27th!

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