When "Disenchanted" made its debut at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2011, it had a different title — one that rhymes with "Witches of the Kingdom."
The change in name aptly signifies how this show has matured, from one that would use a coarse word gag just for the shock value to today's more polished production that earns its laughs honestly.
And "Disenchanted" deserves every laugh it gets. It sparkles, it charms and when the occasional zip-a-dee-doo-dah zinger hits below the belt, there's good reason and a great payoff.
The title change is important, too, because it drives the show's tone: These women onstage aren't malicious or spiteful shrews, they are simply fed up. They have had it up to their sparkly tiaras with how their stories have been commandeered.
Snow White frankly says she has "a bone to pick with our old buddy, Walt." That would be Walt as in Disney, of course, whose empire is the butt of many of the jokes. Some are subtle — Pocahontas throws a handful of colored leaves over herself, reminiscent of an old Animal Kingdom show. Others are more direct: A very funny diatribe from Cinderella about talking mice ends up attacking a certain corporate rodent who makes his home on Main Street, U.S.A.
This all plays well to a hometown, Disney-savvy crowd. But a clever underpinning of "Disenchanted" is that so pervasive is the "princess-complex," to use the show's lingo, every audience is Disney-savvy.
Michelle Knight's slinky Snow White is the ringleader as she and fellow princesses ponder body image and sexual politics, never through preaching but in fresh comic song after song by writer Dennis T. Giacino. (Bring on the cast album.) Knight has never been better — she owns the stage and delivers her withering comments with just the right trace of a smile on her ruby-red lips.
She's joined by Breanne Pickering, whose ditzy Cinderella delightfully tweaks the stereotype of the typical bubble brain, and Andrea Canny, fresh off the title role in "Lizzie Borden," who makes the Little Mermaid a boozy delight. Lulu Picart puts her powerful voice to great use as Mulan and Pocahontas, two characters who sing Giacino's more reflective songs.
A production decision dilutes the soul-sister power of Shonda L. Thurman's "Finally" — an ode to the first black Disney princess, the one who kisses a frog. Because Thurman has multiple roles, we've already seen a black princess on stage.
And though Hannah Berry-Matthews scores with some good-natured jibes, her Sleeping Beauty is the least defined principal character. That makes her call to action, "Just Wake Up," less cathartic than it should be.
Director Fiely Matias keeps the energy level high and movements uncomplicated, so the focus is on his cast's personalities. Exquisite costumes by Vanessa Leuck and a cleverly unsophisticated set design by Gentry Akens add to the fairy-tale feel.
If wishes really do come true, this sharply executed show will run happily ever after.
• What: Musical comedy starring favorite fairy-tale princesses, for teenagers and older
• Length: 1:40, no intermission
• Where: The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando
• When: Select days and times, including matinees and late-night shows, through Oct. 27. Complete schedule at abbeyorlando.com
• Tickets: $40 general, $50 VIP
• Call: 866-468-7630Copyright © 2015, CT Now