BWW Interview: DISENCHANTED! Princesses Dish on What's After 'Happily Ever After'
We're all familiar with their stories... up until the "happily ever after," that is. But what do those infamous princesses of the fairy tales really think in this modern world we live in? You'll find out if you attend the Upper Midwest premiere of DISENCHANTED!, a musical comedy coming to the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis beginning Sept. 26 for a three-week run.
DISENCHANTED! (music, lyric and book by Dennis T. Giacino) was first performed at the Orlando Fringe Festival in 2011(Best of the Fringe!) and has been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Syracuse, Philadelphia and San Francisco. A trio of former Disney employees made their way home to Minneapolis and set up shop as Casting Spells Productions to bring audiences in the Mill City, and hopefully the state of Minnesota (more on that later), a taste of Snow White, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty and others dishing on race, sexuality, the princess complex and more hot button issues of the day.
Mark Bergren, well known in the Twin Cities as the longtime artistic director of Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop, and in Orlando as a show director and writer for Walt Disney Entertainment will direct DISENCHANTED! He joins James Detmar, local actor, director and writer, and Michael Shann, former Disney executive and producer. Detmar handles the marketing and "musical staging." Shann is producing and handling financials. Bergren is also co-producer.
Bergren and Detmar had worked together at Dudley Riggs, Minneapolis' original comedy sketch troupe, and the three spent time in the trenches at Disney but all ended up moving back to Minneapolis. Shann had heard about the show and knew the New York producer, Don Frantz, and saw the show in Sarasota, Fla., in 2012. Frantz was making it into a full-length musical in New York City, where the original director, Fiely Matias, was also a former colleague from Epcot Center in Orlando. Bergren, Detmar and Shann thought about bringing the show to the Twin Cities and landed at the Ritz Theater, home to Ballet of the Dolls, which is no stranger to pushing boundaries on the historic stage in the heart of "Nordeast."
"The Ritz has the feel of an old vaudville house," said Detmar. "We fell in love with the house," which is intimate, and the big stage. The production team's desired timing, which includes capitalizing on great fall weather, kids being in school (note, the show is PG13 due to content and language) and a unique space where they could stage a cabaret-style show, gelled with the Ritz's schedule. Plus, Bergren notes, Ballet of the Dolls and the Ritz are known for their edgy work.
Starting a new theatrical company is no easy feat, even in the culture-obsessed city of Minneapolis. Not having your own space, starting fresh without a database of patrons and doing an unfamiliar show adds up to challenges in marketing, but the team thinks the fact that Minneapolis is a big theatre town will bend in their favor. And, they add, all audiences are already familiar with the characters and the back stories. Far from a kids' show, however, the content would be over the heads of children, they say. They think it will appeal to adults such as book club groups and others looking for a fun evening out. Detmar says they're even offering a free glass of wine or drink with every ticket and a bottle of wine for tables of four.
Another ace in the hole is casting six well-known Twin Cities actors in the show: Bonni Allen (Cinderella), Jen Burleigh-Bentz (Snow White), Joy Dolo (Rapunzel, The One Who Kissed The Frog), Vanessa Gamble (Belle, The Little Mermaid), Suzie Juul (Sleeping Beauty) and Pegah Kadkhodaian (Hua Mulan, Pocahontas) make up the talented cast. Music director is Raymond Berg, another well known former Dudley Riggs personality.
Shann said the team secured the rights to the show in Minnesota through 2014, so they hope to use the Minneapolis premiere to attract the attention of some other theatres in the state as they see it an ideal fit for the region's audiences. Meanwhile, another production is opening in Orlando the week prior to their debut on Sept. 26, 2013. The production runs Wednesday through Sundays until Oct. 13.
Tickets are available via the Ritz Theater's website: http://www.ritz-theater.org/event/293035-casting-spells-productions-minneapolis/.