Mulan, the main character from the Disney movie of the same name, walks onto the stage wearing traditional men’s Chinese clothing.

She begins singing about the delicate qualities of Chinese girls. But she’s not like them. She’s no geisha — because that’s Japanese. She realizes she’s the only Disney princess “without the guy,” and maybe that’s all because she’s a lesbian who wants to do things her own way.

 

Contradicting the traditional prince-saves-princess storyline, Mulan sings about being the saviour instead. “It simply means those screaming girls get saved by someone in a dress.”

That segment from Cappuccino Theatre’s new musical comedy is very different from classic Disney fairytales that often teach happily ever after only comes from marriage. But Disenchanted!, and its all female cast, is looking to break that stereotype by highlighting female empowerment. The author takes a stab at feminist values with his writing, connecting it to the challenges women face with these labels.

Disenchanted! ran from January 25 to 28 at Pumphouse Theatre. The satire cabaret-style show uses adult humour to highlight how fairytale princesses are left undermined and unsatisfied with their anti-feminist portrayals.

In fact, Cappuccino Theatre’s director and musical director Bryan Smith chose this show specifically to show support for women’s rights.

“It’s about women’s empowerment and being able to break that mold of not being dictated by what a man says or requires or does.”

Director Bryan SmithDirector Bryan Smith stands in front of the Male mannequin counterparts for the princesses after a successful opening night. Photo courtesy of Casey Richardson

The show kicks off with Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty singing “One More Happ’ly Ever After” — a song expressing the princesses’ bitterness towards their years of inaccurate representations. These girls are fed up with looking like “damsels in distress, who do nothing more than sit around waiting for their prince to come.”

Cinderella wants to simply eat, Pocahontas was only ten years old when her “lover” John Smith visited from Europe as an explorer, Rapunzel has a uni-brow, Belle is a schizophrenic who admits her bestiality, and the Little Mermaid became an alcoholic from giving up everything for a man.

Challenging these fairytale archetypes emphasizes the unrealistic standards placed on women who are often drawn by men. Big breasts, tiny waists, few important thoughts and only one goal: marriage.

Andrea O’Brien played Snow White, leading the band of unsatisfied princesses. O’Brien loved storybook princesses as a kid, but thinks they have too much of an impact of what girls should grow up to be.

“Let’s take them back to what they really ought to be, nothing more than once upon a time...They still have a place, but not to validate you,” said O’Brien, whose premiere performance with Cappuccino Theatre was in the last production, Songs For A New World.

O’Brien, who wears her modern bob and tight corset on stage with confidence, recognizes her full figure doesn’t fit within the Disney standards. But she’s proud being a size 10 and embraces the Disenchanted! quote, “I’m perfect just the way that I am.”

“The message that I would hope the audience would take away from this show is that women are strong and they are very powerful, in the way of who they are,” O’Brien said.

Emer Phelan and Zoya Manmohan were just a couple of the audience members who took away that message.

“I just think that it was something really fresh and new, inventive and something we hadn’t seen before. I had just said to her [Zoya], that I’m not usually surprised,” said Phelan. “[It was] just really fabulous and entertaining.”

“They used the ancient times and they modified it to be creative and new with what we’re going through right now so that was really neat,” Manmohan stated.

Smith continually looks for shows that relate to current issues and can send an important message with a creative spin.

“We do try to focus on political or social shows in and of their own sense and the message that they bring,” said Smith, who has been involved with over 70 productions and, as Cappuccino’s artistic director, has a large part in choosing the season’s shows.

“It’s gotta hit something with me in terms of the message it’s trying to portray, but at the same time, stay relevant, in terms of you know, everything that’s happening nowadays.”

The women’s march is an issue he hoped the show helped to support. Eager to bring Calgary’s communities together for equality, Smith pushed a message that is challenging stereotypes. With “nine unbelievably talented women” in his cast, it’s no surprise the show sold out days before opening.

“I would hope what the audience would take away from this show is that women are strong and they are very powerful, in the way of who they are. The different challenges that women have to go through to be able to take a stand to those challenges and say, look I get it, but no.”

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