This month, we check in with Don Frantz, Producer and General Manager at Town Square Productions, as he tells us about their brand new, Off Broadway musical, Disenchanted!, by Dennis T. Giacino.
The actors and creators put on an Actors’ Showcase production after the Fringe Festival in winter 2010-11. I saw it and laughed continuously for 90 minutes. Of course, I had worked for Disney and a lot of the humor was directed at the Orlando market, but I felt that it could play outside of the Disney hometown. As the princesses are universal, the show and the humor were universal—I’m not intending to promote another theme park here. I was also thrilled to have discovered this composer whose music was so tuneful, clever and touching and after a career of working the keys deserved a break.There were very, very funny original bits on stage. Everything was low-tech and real. There was a sense of wonderful bravery on stage as the cast was given the allowance to break the fourth wall and respond to the audience and other performers in improvised moments. There was an immediacy in the room; a way to relate to the cast on stage that was so fresh and exciting. The ‘live’ was put back into live theater.
The first presentation that I watched had a cast of 11 actresses and piano. The show felt more cabaret than musical theater. There was just a hint of character development and script. There were no significant production elements in terms of set, lights and choreography; costumes and props were minimal. They were great songs. As we aimed for Off Broadway, we realized that the cast had to be smaller and after exploring all the characters, we realized that there were just 3 characters to focus on: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The others had great messages and filled with comedic value, but became secondary characters restructured to be played by other actresses in multiple roles. So we settled on a cast of 6. Since the music drove the show, we did expand to a band of 3 which added a valuable drummer to accent the comedy and the new dance elements and a bass player to give a ‘bottom’ to the all female cast.The show became anchored with the concept that the princesses were putting on a revue, like a vaudeville, if you will. Just like developing the old vaudeville comedy routines of years ago, we went ‘on the road’ to discover the bits, lines, takes and gags. Prior to New York, the creators did or watched others do over a dozen productions all over the US in readings, cabaret, concert, dinner theater, community theater, college, developmental workshops, AEA guest artist productions. The show grew up over the last 5 years. I can watch the show now and remember when each bit was tried out at one of these productions and survived and made it into the final script. The success we have now is because of the many theater owners, presenters and producers that gave the show a chance along the way, the last and greatest help being offered by the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa which gave us the opportunity to put it all together prior to New York.
Why should everyone find some time to become enchanted with Disenchanted?
In 1994, I was fortunate enough to be the Associate Producer onBeauty and the Beast, which launched Disney Theatrical, and it brought a whole new energy to musical theater and another outlet for the perfect princess story. A great thrill during the course of‘Beauty’ at the Palace Theater was seeing so many little girls have their first musical experience. 20 years later a lot of those little girls have grown up and kissed a toad. Not the magical toad, just a toad. Now that they are in their late 20’s, the time seems right for a tip of the hat to a little Disenchantment. The audience—men and women—laugh, giggle and guffaw during a 90-minute good time in the theater…but at the same time each night I see some members of the audience walk away with the acknowledgement of some of truths in life—being happy with who you are, tossing off someone else’s expectations, the joy of friends who understand, the strength to stand up for yourself. One lady in her 50’s said, “It’s about time someone said that!” Then bought a return ticket for her and her daughter. Finally, I’d have to say that in New York at the Theater at St. Clements you also have the total enjoyment of being enchanted at the performances of 6 amazing women who simply put on a great show.
For more information about the show, visit the Disenchanted! website.