Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

Disenchanted

Disenchanted

★★★

Online via stream.theatre

Disenchanted

Disenchanted

Online via stream.theatre

Reviewed – 9th April 2021

★★★

 

“The ingredients, the writing, the musicality and the star-studded cast promise something to be respected and admired. But there is a definite sense of disappointment.”

 

‘Disenchanted’ (dɪsɪnˈtʃɑːntɪd/): disappointed by someone or something previously respected or admired; disillusioned. Synonyms include; let down, fed up, cynical, disabused. There is no question as to who the ‘someone or something’ singled out in Dennis T. Giacino’s “Disenchanted! A New Musical Comedy” is, and its subversive twist on the Disney fairy tale marketing machine, if not new, is a delight to watch. The swipes at the established misogynism, racism and many other ‘isms’ inbuilt into the portrayal of our favourite princesses are much needed, and Giacino has dressed them in pastiche melodies and some ingeniously clever and witty lyrics. It could do with perhaps more subtlety and less preachiness and bitterness, but the energy and gung-ho feistiness of all involved will appeal to all genders and persuasions.

That’s the good news. Unfortunately, some artistic decisions for this current digital revival make for awkward viewing, for the wrong reasons. ‘Digital’ is the key word. This is inherently a musical that needs to be witnessed live, in the flesh, a few sheets to the wind, in like-minded company. We, the audience, are being heckled and cajoled by these comic geniuses and we should be simultaneously shamed and charmed. It is cabaret at its finest. We should be ‘loving it!’. But, rather than challenging preconceptions, this version challenges our patience.

In the original Off-Broadway run in 2014 there is a wonderful moment midway through – a gorgeous swipe at the Disney franchise. The ‘Princess who Kissed the Frog’ sings “Why’d it take ‘em so long to give a sister a song… ‘cause I am that storybook princess that’s fin’lly gone black”. Giacino’s point is that it wasn’t until 2009 when, for the first time in animation history, the fairest of them all was black. Director Tom Jackson Greaves’ decision to introduce such diversity into the casting of ‘Disenchanted’ way before this moment lets the joke fall somewhat flat.

Overall, the irreverence of the material is dampened by the exaggerated gaiety of the cast. And the hue-changing green screen backdrop distracts instead of being a neutral backdrop to the colourful characters. It takes an effort not to be snagged by these grating hurdles, but for those who make the effort to overcome them there is some reward. There is a very fine line up of performers indeed. Led by Jodie Steele’s ‘Snow White’ and aided by side kicks Allie Daniel (Sleeping Beauty) and Sophie Isaacs (Cinderella) we are guided through a series of vignettes in which various princesses are summoned to sing their way through their dissatisfactions and parody the princess culture. Highlights include Grace Mouat’s ‘Pocahontas’ (a character hitherto homogenised by the entertainment industry willing to distort her true Native-American story purely to sell cinema tickets) who sardonically sings that she “looks like a porn star”. Jenny O’Leary, as ‘Rapunzel’, brilliantly bemoans the total absence of royalties she receives from the global merchandising of her name in a Kurt Weill inspired number. And Courtney Bowman’s scathing but catchy diatribe against Middle Eastern misogyny is inspired.

There is a tenuous thread running through the musical numbers, reinforced by the repeated #princesscomplex hashtag. The messages are clear, but even now becoming a bit dated; and the balance between spite and humour aren’t always weighed up fully. Its intended audience is clear too, but the delivery is confused and awkward, like the shady, disenchanted state of limbo an adolescent might feel: too old for the youth club but too young for the pub.

‘Disenchanted’ (dɪsɪnˈtʃɑːntɪd/): it lives up to its definition. The ingredients, the writing, the musicality and the star-studded cast promise something to be respected and admired. But there is a definite sense of disappointment.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

 


Disenchanted

Online via stream.theatre until 11th April

 

Reviewed by Jonathan this year:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Remembering the Oscars

Remembering the Oscars

★★★

Online via www.rememberingtheoscars.com

Remembering the Oscars

Remembering the Oscars

Online via rememberingtheoscars.com

Reviewed – 25th March 2021

★★★

 

“The saving grace is the opportunity to watch, enjoy and appreciate two of our finest dancers at their best”

 

The success of the long running television series “Strictly Come Dancing” cannot be denied, and it has to be commended for bringing the art of dance to a mass audience. Likewise, the many spin offs over the years have shone a light on the world of choreography. The professionals in this field are sadly often overlooked. There is still no Oscar for Best Choreography; a fact that is addressed in “Remembering the Oscars”, the latest dance show that is set to tour next year featuring the “Strictly’ couple Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara. Following their “Remembering the Movies” extravaganza which danced its way across the nation in 2019, the show was supposed kick off last March. Initially rescheduled for this year, it is again put back to 2022 – a sadly all too familiar story heard these days.

In the meantime, Škorjanec and Manrara have filmed some of the highlights for an online version while we wait. The real-life husband and wife duo celebrate the Golden Age of Hollywood with songs from musical films in, what they describe in the publicity briefs, as a ‘taster (sic) of what is to come’. Which is a very accurate description. The show has the feel of an hour-long trailer. Despite the lavish production values and the talented dancers, singers and creatives, there is a sense of being short changed. Škorjanec and Manrara offer snippets of slightly stilted, auto-cued narration between the dance sequences, yet there is little narrative beneath the gloss of what is essentially a sales pitch.

Fortunately, we can momentarily discard these misgivings, and become immersed in some wonderful moments. The couple take on most of the routines, joined by a roster of eight dancers and accompanied by Janine Johnson and Giovanni Spanó who sing us through a potted history of Oscar-winning songs, dances, movies and stars. It’s a crowd-pleasing choice of repertoire, opening with a medley of favourites even if it doesn’t dig too deep into the rich legacy of music in film. Even the Disney celebration finale’s only nod to anything pre-nineties was ‘Mary Poppins’.

But it’s the dance that matters, and fans of the Strictly stars will have plenty to feast on. A highlight is the all too brief homage to Bob Fosse where ‘On Broadway’ from his semi-autobiographical film ‘All That Jazz’ segues into ‘All That Jazz’ from ‘Chicago’. The choreography is solid throughout, with sublime moments breaking the surface to cause ripples of pleasure. Johnson and Spanó match these scattered gems with their fine singing voices. But overall, this is a show that needs to be seen live. Musically too, we miss the richness of the brass and the smoothness of the strings, which the synthetic arrangement here cannot quite replicate. The producers take pains, in the programme notes, to highlight that what we are watching on the screen is ‘just a short sample’ of what to expect next year. All the promise, the expectation and the focus are for the live show in twelve months’ time. Which is all very well, but it doesn’t make for a wholly satisfying pay-to-view streamed show. The saving grace is the opportunity to watch, enjoy and appreciate two of our finest dancers at their best.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ryan X Howard

Remembering the Oscars

Online via rememberingtheoscars.com until 17th April

 

Reviewed this year by Jonathan:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews