"Call Me Adam" chats with Fiely A. Matias and Dennis T. Giacino, the director and book/composer/lyricist of the new Off-Broadway musical comedy DISENCHANTED! which is currently playing a limited run in NYC at the Theatre at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue) through January 25 only!
UPDATE: After a successful run at St. Clements, DISENCHANTED is now playing an open-end run at NYC's Westside Theatre (407 West 43rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue)! So you have a second chance to this hilariously fun show! Click here for my review and link to tickets!
DISENCHANTED! tells the story of the original fairytale princesses and how they are none too happy with the exploitation they’ve suffered in today’s films, books and dolls.
1. Your newest show, DISENCHANTED! is currently running Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements through January 25. DISENCHANTED! What made you want to write and direct a musical comedy from the point of view of the Disney Princesses?
Fiely A. Matias: The idea for DISENCHANTED! popped into Dennis' mind several years ago while the two of us were performing Asian Sings The Blues on an international tour.
Dennis T. Giacino: I used to be a history teacher in the 80s and would, each year, tell the story of Pocahontas to 7th and 8th graders. I loved regaling the students with stories of this rough-and-tumble, 10 year old, Powhatan tyke from the pretty pinewoods of Appalachia. When the Disney animated film, Pocahontas, was released in 1995, and I saw their rendition of a more adult, deer pelt lingerie-wearing, somewhat voluptuous woman with long flowing hair, make-up, and leaves following her everywhere, the thought occurred to me: What would the 10-year-old tomboy from history think of today's sexier, more adult pop culture version?! And a song was born! The show, featuring a band of pissed-off princesses singing out against today's obsession with dainty royals, wasn't far behind!
Fiely A. Matias: DISENCHANTED! is written from the point of view of the original fairytale princesses - the same public domain well that Disney went to for their films. Our princesses are portrayed as strong, real women commenting on today's helpless damsel in distress princesses with big saucer-like eyes and waistlines smaller than their own necks! It's a loving poke, a friendly skewering of the Princess Complex perpetuated by Disney, Toddlers & Tiaras, Barbie dolls, MTV, etc. We wanted to write and direct the show because there's so much gold to mine in real women telling the truth about living supposedly happily ever after! In our show, happily ever after ain't it's cracked up to be!
Dennis T. Giacino: Laughter!
Fiely A. Matias: And some truth. Audiences love the ribald comedy, the improvisation, the belting-their-faces-off funny women, and the message of DISENCHANTED!
Dennis T. Giacino: In DISENCHANTED!, every comedy song re-tells, in a riotous, hilarious way, each of the princess stories while hinting at a bigger picture. The message hidden in each of the songs is that happily ever after is self-acceptance; being perfectly you - not what today's entertainment tells you how to be.
Fiely A. Matias: Audiences are enjoying both the comedy and the message! We've been sold out the entire run! It's been an amazing NYC experience for us and the show!
Fiely A. Matias: Well, you really need six Carol Burnetts up on that stage in DISENCHANTED! They need to have great comic timing and sing their faces off. This cast does not disappoint!
Dennis T. Giacino: It's also been a treat to have two of our original Orlando actors in this Off Broadway production. Along with Lulu Picart (Mulan, Pocahontas, Princess Badroulbadour), it's been so great to have Michelle Knight (Snow White) continue her journey with the show. She brings amazing vocals, great leadership, and a keen sense of wonderful 'straight-man' comedy to the show. We're having such fun watching the NYC audiences love these performances!
4. What have you enjoyed most about this run of DISENCHANTED! and what are your plans for the show after this run is over?
Fiely A. Matias: We are loving watching an audience lose themselves in laughter! Having an Off-Broadway show has been a dream of ours since our Asian Sings The Blues days back in the 90s. It's been great realizing that dream! We went from a one-man cabaret act in Asian to a full-on Off-Broadway musical comedy with DISENCHANTED! - it makes all those years in which I rolled around the stage in a skimpy 12-year-old's one-piece bathing suit singing love-songs-gone-wrong worth it! :)
Dennis T. Giacino: We're in a limited engagement with DISENCHANTED! now. Our hope, due to the sold out houses, raves, and such positive audience reaction, is that the show transfers to a larger Off-Broadway space this year. That would be very exciting!
Dennis T. Giacino: I'm totally Snow White! I could make fun, off-color jokes about 7 men and waiting for my prince to come but suffice it to say, I just love the idea of dying and coming back to life! Who doesn't want that?!
Fiely A. Matias: I'm all about Pocahontas! I've always been a "just around the river bend" kinda guy plus, come on, she has hair great hair! For a balding 40-something, that's a dream come true!
Dennis T. Giacino: I definitely prefer our empowered princesses, though. There's really nothing like a strong, belting actress who can be mega-funny while she sings her face off!
Fiely A. Matias: Amen. Now that's a super-power!
6. Let's go back in time for a moment. In 2001, I saw your NYC Fringe show Asian Sings The Blues. I still remember the fun I had at that show from Fiely's performance to Dennis' songs. Looking back, what did you like about performing/working on that show? How did you first come to work together and what has made you want to continue this collaboration?
Fiely A. Matias: We've been collaborating for 23 years now! We started a small theater company in Corvallis, Oregon low those many years ago. We were having troubles affording the licensing fees for Neil Simon plays and Sondheim musicals so we started writing our own shows.
Dennis T. Giacino: Wait - hold up! Let's be clear here. Fiely came to me 23 years ago and said, "Licensing fees and actors are expensive. Write me a one-man show." My reaction was, "Okay - you sing a little off-key, all you do is chat about yourself, and you always wish to be the center of attention. You're a cabaret act!" And I wrote Asian Sings The Blues!
Fiely A. Matias: Okay, okay. That's all true! I dream that we will end up in some dive bar in our old age singing songs from Asian - those really were such fun times! What a great way to retire - as a cheesy lounge act!
7. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Dennis T. Giacino: That's easy. As a young teenager, I played a song I wrote for Tommy West, a country music singer/producer - I think he worked with Jim Croce. When I finished the song, Tommy imparted this nugget of wisdom: "I love the melody and the lyrics. Make sure that every song you ever write tells a compelling story. It's got to have a beginning, middle and end."
Many of today's pop songs (and some theater songs) have forgotten that. I'm forever grateful to Tommy West for that advice! It has informed every song I've written since - Asian Sings The Blues and DISENCHANTED! Best advice ever.
Dennis T. Giacino: I feel like my purpose in life is to skewer different genres of entertainment - to show how silly live performance can be. Whether it's the Disney princess films, game shows, sitcoms, or the self-centered, semi-talented cabaret performer. I love to lampoon them all. My fave, of course, is spoofing the put-upon accompanist in a lounge act. I'm known as "Scary Manilow" in Asian Sings The Blues. That'd be cool to be remembered for that. Or being the "Princess Whisperer." The guy who brought to life all these strong fairy tale women who gave our ol' buddy Walt the what for!
9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?
Dennis T. Giacino: I've often thought that I'd like to be able to read minds. But I can already kind of do that - I'm a bit psychic, y'know.
Fiely A. Matias: Okay, what am I thinking right now?
Dennis T. Giacino: That you don't have an answer to the super-power question.
Fiely A. Matias: Wow! You're like Kreskin at the keys!
Dennis T. Giacino: I knew you were going to say that.
Dennis T. Giacino, a New York City native, has created musicals that have toured throughout the USA, Canada and internationally. Giacino’s works have been featured in prestigious by-invitation-only festivals in NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Orlando, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver BC, Halifax, Montreal, Sydney AUS, Singapore, and Prague. His musicals have received numerous awards including: NJ Playwrights Contest (2010 Winner! -DISENCHANTED!); "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best of Orlando 2011" (Orlando Weekly, Orlando Sentinel, Watermark - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Festival); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theater Festival); "Best of Fest" awards (San Francisco, Saskatoon AB and Orlando International Fringe Theater Festivals).
Fiely A. Matias has directed productions of DISENCHANTED! in Orlando (2011, 2012, 2013), Los Angeles (2012), San Francisco Bay Area (2013), Missouri (2012), Tampa (2014) as well as the original New York City workshop (2009) and staged reading (2012). He has directed musical works by Dennis T. Giacino (author/composer, DISENCHANTED!) for over 20 years, including over 20 International Fringe Theater Festival productions. His awards include "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theatre Festival), "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Theatre Festival), "Producer’s Award" (Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival) and "Best of Fest" at the Orlando, San Francisco, and Saskatoon Fringe Theater festivals. Fiely is a proud member of AEA and SDC.