Inside the ‘Broadway Princess Party,’ a sweet soiree of Disney songs
A bright red wig. A billowing yellow ball gown. A big, glistening tiara that seemed to catch every light in the room.
Of all the ostentatious accessories adorning the musical-loving, Disney-devoted girls and gays in attendance Thursday night at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz, the one that caught the eye of Laura Osnes onstage was that faux-diamond-encrusted crown. “That is too much sparkle,” she jokingly scolded. “Said no princess ever!”
Welcome to the Broadway Princess Party, an unapologetically frothy cabaret feting the leading ladies of fairy tales, onscreen and onstage. Co-created by two-time Tony nominee Osnes (“Bonnie & Clyde,” “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella”) and New York-based music director Benjamin Rauhala, the concert is where the fandoms of musical theater and cartoon royalty converge.
The “party” has been thrown periodically at New York City’s Feinstein’s/54 Below since 2015, and guest stars like Rachel Bloom, Jodi Benson, Ruthie Ann Miles, Jeremy Jordan and Corey Cott have joined in on the fun.
A roadshow is touring nationwide through at least March. (Christy Altomare of “Anastasia” fame will substitute for Osnes when it stops in Santa Ana on Dec. 16.)
“This is a party! If we look good, take a picture, take a video!” said Rauhala, the party’s pianist and self-proclaimed “fairy godfairy.”
The 90-minute set included the instantly recognizable ballads of animated classics like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled,” “Pocahontas,” “Moana” and “Frozen,” as well as songs associated with the movies’ Broadway adaptations. Even Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox was represented through tracks from “Anastasia” and “The Greatest Showman” — and with three-part harmonies, no less.
Between songs, the “princess posse” occasionally reprised their onstage personas, by reciting characters’ signature lines before songs and chatting through bits of contemporary-set banter.
“There was traffic in the kingdom,” said Osnes, who starred in the recent Broadway revival of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” Courtney Reed, who originated the role of Jasmine in the “Aladdin” musical, responded with sass: “Girl, you need to invest in a magic carpet! It’s way faster than the carpool lane.”
The actresses also shared behind-the-scenes peeks into their Broadway lives. Susan Egan — who earned a Tony nomination as the original Belle of “Beauty and the Beast,” and also starred in “Cabaret” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” on Broadway — recalled her intense, three-day audition to play Belle onstage, and how she booked the role of Meg in the 1997 Disney animated film “Hercules.”
“Belle is kindhearted, courageous, and trades her life for her father’s; Meg is sarcastic with a string of bad boyfriends who sells her soul to the devil — not exactly the same type,” she explained before performing “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” from “Hercules.”
“I think that’s when Disney realized, when I was onstage as Belle, I was acting. Meg, however … Meg is right where I live,” she added with a smirk.
Essentially, the Broadway Princess Party allows these actresses to extend the lives of their onstage tenures as fairy-tale characters, even selling branded merchandise and meet-and-greet opportunities at every stop.
Wearing embellished skater dresses, chandelier earrings and perfectly tousled curls, they delivered pitch-perfect renditions of beloved princess songs, offering snippets of the performances they perfected over eight shows a week for years. Of course, each belted every note with a bright voice and a big smile.
It seemed to be a dream come true for Thursday’s crowd of nearly 200 people — some in full cosplay, many instead “Disneybounding” — as it’s quite rare for musical theater fans to see Broadway stars acting in close range and even allowing recordings of their performances.
Each number was greeted with near silence as attendees — clearly disciplined by regularly theater-going — smiled or simply mouthed the words but never sang along. The quiet was broken only by cocktail shakers and soda guns behind the bar, plus the occasional holler after a killer trill or applause for a long note.
Osnes, Reed and Egan were joined onstage by Adam J. Levy and AJ Rafael, who stood in as the princes of numerous duets. Frankie Grande also sashayed onstage for the “Moana” song “You’re Welcome,” and “That’s So Raven” alum Anneliese van der Pol, who also played Belle on Broadway, sang a ballad from “Beauty and the Beast.”
Laura Osnes sings a medley of songs from “Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”
The set didn’t just include straightforward covers of Disney songs. The crowd-pleasing “Cinderepic Medley” had Osnes singing through numbers from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical; as the clock struck midnight, she started running offstage and seemingly got her foot stuck on a step — a setup for Stephen Sondheim’s song for the same character from “Into the Woods.”
And Egan, a mother of two, belted out an astute anthem about how nearly every Disney movie kills off the mother of its main character.
Susan Egan sings “Where Have all the Mothers Gone” at Broadway Princess Party.
“Where have all the mothers gone? Heroes aren’t just orphans, take it from Mulan,” she sang, as the audience applauded every other clever line. “And I’d hate to break it to you, but you haven’t thought this through, because someday these princesses will become mothers too. And then what are you gonna do then, Disney? Put a hit out on Belle?”
Before the audience dispersed for the evening, to resume binging classics on Disney+ or to catch an opening-night screening of “Frozen 2,” Levy surprised Osnes with a birthday cake topped, of course, with a Cinderella figurine.
But it was the bookended sentiments by Rauhala that served as the cherry on top of the sweet soiree. At the top of the show, he told the audience that, whenever he felt lonely and misunderstood as a child, he’d listen to Disney songs while playing with princess dolls.
“I just got to throw a real-life princess party with all of you,” he said before closing the party with an off-mic sing-along of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” “And it’s even more magical than my childhood dreams because these three women aren’t just dolls in my room, they’ve become my real-life best friends. So if anybody tries to tell you that magic isn’t real, or that dreams don’t come true, you send them to me.”
“I’m living proof — well, I’m living poof,” he noted with a wave of his wand.
'Broadway Princess Party'
Where: Margaret A. Webb Theatre, Orange County School for the Arts, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana
When: Dec. 16, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$30 (subject to change)
Info: (714)-560-0900, www.ocsarts.net or BroadwayPrincessParty.com
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)
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