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Princess Act

Bawdy, naughty women set Disney straight in ACE’s Disenchanted
Kim Fairbairn, Melissa Miller and Megan Robertson in ACE’s Disenchanted
Kim Fairbairn, Melissa Miller and Megan Robertson in ACE’s Disenchanted

No holds barred: There is nothing the ladies in Disenchanted aren’t willing to throw down in an effort to overturn society’s ideal of a Disney princess. From tirades about historical inaccuracies to really dirty Pinocchio jokes, all’s fair in Actors Cabaret of Eugene’s (ACE) production of Dennis T. Giacino’s irreverent musical.

There is plenty to poke fun at in the Disney portrayal of women from Germanic and French folktales, Chinese legends and American history. While Disenchanted goes too far at times (OK, all the time), it does explore some interesting issues, such as: Why are we marrying guys we just met the page before? Why are woodland creatures chattering to us all the time? And who cleans this castle, anyway?

At the heart of the issue is the manner in which Disney hammers home the so-called Princess Complex, “in which you are only desirable and valid if you are a beauty-obsessed, ditzy, insecure, Bambi-like waif,” and you somehow need a man to save you. 

Disenchanted is a great choice for ACE, with a small cast, wild costumes and raucous audience participation. Six women with big voices get to participate in lusty vocal numbers and a wild rumpus on the stage. Chelyce Chambers, Kim Fairbairn, Melissa Miller, Jenny Parks, India Potter and Megan Robertson — all under the direction of Joe Zingo — make for a great team, and one enthusiastically hailed by the audience.

Disenchanted is not a spit-polish, picture-perfect play. It’s more Amy Schumer than Meryl Streep, and that’s fitting for the theme. Like any variety show, some songs are better than others and the banter between the characters can be a little forced.

But despite the silly, over-the-top gags and gutter-dragging lyrics, there are moments of beautiful insight. Pocahontas sings “Honestly,” in which she decries the inaccurate telling of her story as well as the crazy sexuality Disney thrust upon a character who, by most accounts, would have been 10 years old when the story takes place. “All I Want to Do is Eat” is a laugh-until-you-start-sobbing song about the insane impossibility of remaining young and thin.

Short and anything but sweet, ACE’s Disenchanted is just what a rainy January evening calls for. It’s not a family show, so bring your friends, not your children. As one audience member put it afterward: “I had a great girls’ night out with my friends.” If you don’t have plans for Valentine’s weekend, this would be the most appropriate reservation to make.

Disenchanted plays through Feb. 20 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene; actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.