Disenchanted by Casting Spells Productions at the Ritz Theater

Jen Burleigh-Benz, Suzie Juul, Bonni Allen and Pegah Kadkhodaian in Disenchanted.  Photo by James Detmar.

Jen Burleigh-Benz, Suzie Juul, Bonni Allen and Pegah Kadkhodaian in Disenchanted. Photo by James Detmar.

If you’re an aficionado of (I nearly said “addicted to”) exuberant, campy and fiercely funny musical comedies then Disenchanted (at the Ritz Theater, through Oct 13) is for you.  The show is niftily staged by director Mark Bergren, with the help of producer James Detmar (the program is unclear about this).   The design thrills and the Ritz Theater is a gem, not a bad seat anywhere.

But the best aspect of Disenchanted are the performances which are, to a woman (all the actors are of the feminine persuasion), terrific.  There’s Jen Burleigh-Benz as Snow White, poised (not a hair out of place) and delightfully raunchy.  I wouldn’t care to meet her in the proverbial darkened alley.  The goofy Bonnie Allen and Suzie Juul play Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, by turns sweet and brassy.  I was utterly smitten by both of them.  Pegah Kadkhodaian (now there’s a name) delights as the (non-Asian) Mulan and the strumpet-like Pocahantas (I mean this as a compliment and I hope Ms. Kadkhodaian understands this; if she doesn’t I may be in serious trouble).  Vanesa Gamble plays the Little Mermaid with scene-stealing, under-stated slinkiness.

And then there’s the marvelous Joy Dolo.  Excuse me while I address her directly: you’re young.  Perhaps you’re considering other career options.  Reject them.  The energy running through you is unique and you owe it to the world to pursue this art.  Thank you.

All the actors sing marvelously and composer and bookist Dennis C. Giancino offers up a slate of expertly crafted and energized songs; he and the cast’ll definitely get you where you’re going.

The plot?  Well, gee.  Don’t hold me to this, but I think the play concerns a group of fairy tale figures (Disenchanted carefully avoids the legally proscribed D****y word) who gather in order to celebrate their independence and their emphatic princelessness.  “Do I,” Snow White demands, “look like I need a prince?”  Ahem.  Certainly not.  “Isn’t it time,” she asks later, “to stand up to those who peddle this [stuff] to our kids?”  Yes!  Lead on!

Without a coherent story there’s no obvious place to put an act break so Disenchanted soldiers forward sans intermssion.  This made the show feel long at times, but Giancino’s charming music kept pulling me back.  There’s some (I have to mention this) queasy-making racial material in the show (some insulting American Indian music, Ms. Dolo touted as the “black princess;” I wish they would cut it).

But all these complaints are minor.  So long as you don’t ask too much of Disenchanted you won’t be disappointed.

The immediate Ritz neighborhood boasts three or four outstanding restaurants and a similar number of funky Nordeast saloons.  Make an evening of it.

For more info about John Olive, check out his website.


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