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Standard Deviations: Spending a magical evening with four Broadway princesses

By Mark Saal standard-Examiner - | Sep 1, 2019

It took awhile, but I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.

A princess.

Sure, it’s a difficult case to make for a 60-year-old heterosexual male. But princesses are truly magical, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the princesses who’ve graced both stage and screen over the last six decades, it’s that anything is possible. We can be who we want to be, do what we want to do, and — best of all — change our world for the better.

Most of the cool stuff I learned, I learned from princesses. After all, it was the song “It’s Possible” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” way back in 1957, that taught us “the world is full of zanies and fools who don’t believe in sensible rules, and won’t believe what sensible people say. And because these daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes? Impossible things are happening every day.”

Thirty-eight years later, Disney’s “Pocahontas” warned us, “You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”

Man, do we ever need that advice today.

And more recently, Tiana from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” taught wannabes like me that good things come through hard work: “I remember Daddy told me, ‘Fairy tales can come true, you gotta make ’em happen. It all depends on you.'”

Yes, princesses rock, people.

If you weren’t among the lucky few in Layton’s Kenley Amphitheater on the penultimate Saturday evening in August, you missed out on an incredible experience. That evening, the Davis Arts Council brought the Broadway Princess Party to the stage.

The event featured four high-powered Broadway princess/actresses — Tony nominee Susan Egan (“Beauty and the Beast,” also “Hercules”), two-time Tony-nominated actress Laura Osnes (“Cinderella,” “Bonnie and Clyde”), Drama Desk nominee Christy Altomare (“Anastasia”), and Arielle Jacobs (Broadway’s “Aladdin”) — performing some of the greatest princess songs ever written. They were accompanied on piano by their “Fairy Godfairy” and music director, Benjamin Rauhala.

Tessa Vaschel, executive director of the Davis Arts Council, hinted that Broadway Princess Party was her favorite concert of the Kenley season.

“For me, personally, this was the show I was excited about — it was just such a treat to get all four of these princesses,” she said. “To get one of them to perform would have been a special night. But to have them all? It was just a joyful experience.”

Vaschel said that, as a fan, the princess party was “one of the most special things I can imagine.”

“Growing up, I listened to Susan’s (Egan) recording of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ soundtrack hundreds of times,” Vaschel said. “So listening to her sing ‘Home’ live, there on the stage, I almost fainted. To know that I was feeling that, and everyone else was feeling that, was pretty special.”

And the response from the concert has been phenomenal, according to Vaschel.

“Some people said, ‘That was my favorite show this year,’ and some said it was their favorite they’ve ever seen at Kenley,” she said.

Count this columnist among the latter.

After doing a telephone interview with Rauhala, Egan and Osnes for a preview of the concert, I was pretty sure it was going to be something special. So I decided to take my 33-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old granddaughter — both huge Disney princess fans — to the concert. And it was, quite literally, one of the most enchanting evenings I’ve ever spent.

My granddaughter proudly wore her little plastic tiara and sang along with every song she knew. Even the ones she didn’t know, she did her best to keep up musically, if not lyrically.

And my daughter? For me, that was the real miracle of the evening. (My daughter, who happens to be one of the bravest people I know, has given me permission to mention this next part.)

For the last few years, our eldest daughter has battled severe depression and other psychological challenges. It’s been a difficult road for her and the rest of the family. But with just the right mix of music, mirth and magic, Broadway Princess Party turned out to be the ideal prescription.

I can’t remember the last time I saw my daughter really laugh, or even smile. But for two hours on a Saturday night, she joined her daughter in singing princess power ballads, grinning widely and punctuating those grins with loud laughter. (She particularly enjoyed a song Egan sang about the ill-fated mothers of Disney princesses.)

I confess that several times during the concert, catching a glimpse of that scene, my eyes welled up with tears.

It was, simply put, one of the most original, inspiring and entertaining concerts I’ve ever attended. So do yourself a favor: If Davis Arts Council ever brings the Broadway Princess Party back, don’t miss it. Take your family. Take your friends. Heck, take your enemies.

Because as it turns out, singing Broadway princesses are not only incredibly musical, but also fantastically magical.

And like Cinderella says, “Impossible things are happening every day.”


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