The idea for “Disenchanted!” began when Dennis Giacino was a history teacher.
“I taught about Pocahontas in my class back in the 1980s,” Giacino says. “That’s where the seed started. In the mid-1990s, the Disney animated film came out, and as I sat there and watched it, I thought, that’s not right. She was 10 when the whole John Smith thing supposedly happened. And I wondered, what would Pocahontas think of this? I wrote a song. Soon, other princesses were whispering in my ear.”
All those unhappy princesses got together to become the musical, “Disenchanted!,” which opens Friday at Prima.
“They don’t like the way they are portrayed,” Giacino says. “There’s a line in the show about how they could stay up on the shelves and look like helpless wimps.”
But these ladies want to tell their real stories and their “they lived happily ever after” truths. So we meet, among others, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, The Little Mermaid, Princess Badroulbadour (known as Jasmine in another world) and The Princess who Kissed the Frog, who in the Disney film is know as Tiana.
Make no mistake, these women are not Disney characters. They are the princesses who go back hundreds of years in time and are ready to tell it like it is.
Don’t expect sweet, demure young ladies to be there.
Snow White isn’t very nice, Belle hates living with those talking clocks and candelabras, The Little Mermaid drinks too much and misses the sea. The Princess who Kissed the Frog wonders why it took so long for a black princess to have her moment, and Princess Badroulbadour wonders why Aladdin got his story told but nobody asked about hers.
And Cinderella loves being a princess, but she’s rather daffy and obsessed with time.
In all, 10 different princesses perform in the show.
Giacino wanted to make sure his audience could relate to these princesses.
“When you look at the script (it says) you are to cast this show will all colors, shapes and ages,” he says. “The show tackles some hot-button issues, but all with humor. There is a song about body images, a song about racism and how it is portrayed in princess culture and a song about sexual identity.”
Humor rules in the show.
“It’s all done through vaudeville,” says Fiely A. Matias, the original director of the show and, according to Giacino, its co-creator.
“We all need a good sounding board, and that was Fiely,” Giacino says.
The two opened a theater company in Portland, Oregon, many years ago.
We were so poor, we couldn’t afford to pay royalties, so we began writing our own shows and music,” Matias says.
“Disenchanted!” grew from a fun revue into an international hit.
The two try to go to as many productions as they can, and they have been to across the United States and Asia and on Friday will be in Lancaster, where they will stop in at Prima for a production.
“Then we do a European swing, to Paris and the premiere in Denmark and then the fourth national tour,” Matias says.
“We are gypsies, we love to travel,” Giacino says. “We like to meet as many people as we can. It’s a fun sorority across the world. There are over 1,000 princesses worldwide.”
The laughs always come at the same places, no matter what country they are in and whether or not they understand the language of the production.
“We go to cheer,”Giacino says. “And we’ve seen it produced in all different ways, from sparkly gowns to modern-day dress. We enjoy those different ideas.”
Next up for Giacino and Matias?
“Everyone tells me I should do a show of (fairy-tale) villains,” Giacino says, laughing. “I love that idea.”