Theatre Review: Tangled // Disney Cruise

Photo Credit: Ryan Wendler

Lockdown has provided many a theatre fan the chance to watch a whole host of their favourite stage shows on the small screen. We have seen the National Theatre broadcast sixteen of their most popular past productions for home viewing, and Disney+ has since taken the world by storm with their acquisition and distribution the award-winning Hamilton.

But the main players in the world of theatre are not the only ones to have made the difficult jump from stage to screen. Tangled, now available to watch for free on YouTube, is a far smaller production than those that have dominated the past months, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable, musical watch.

Photo Credit: DisneyTravelPros

The production sees the 2010 box office hit, Tangled, translated to the stage for the purposes of performance onboard the Disney Cruise. The narrative is, for the most part, identical. Snatched from her royal bed at birth, Rapunzel goes about her days locked in a forgotten tower under the ever-watchful eye of the evil Mother Gothel. Seizing her chance to escape with the bandit Flynn Rider, Rapunzel embarks on an adventure to see the lanterns that fill the sky on her birthday each year and discover her past in the process.

Limited to a sixty-minute runtime, the creative team behind the production have set themselves a difficult task. The film is streamlined in order to work to its tight schedule, yet it nevertheless manages to perform a whistle stop tour of the film’s most loved musical numbers, as well as including three new songs from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater – the duo behind the film’s original score. These new additions ring with the unmistakable Disney flair unique to each of their productions, meaning that ‘Flower of Gold,’ ‘Wanted Man’ and ‘When She Returns’ feel instantly at home amidst fan-favourites such as ‘I’ve Got a Dream’ and the Oscar-nominated ‘I See the Light.’

Photo Credit: Ryan Wendler

Of course, the show’s scale means that cutbacks are rampant throughout the production. The most notable of these comes in the absence of Pascal, Rapunzel’s pet chameleon who gained near cult status on the film’s release due to his ability to transform seemingly into any merchandise that the company could think of.

This, however, is not to say that Tangled is a hard watch. This is a show with a smaller scale than others we have been exposed to throughout lockdown and it should be taken as such.

Elisha Ainsley and Nick Pankuch each give performances as Rapunzel and Rider so oozing with Disney cheese that it is impossible not to smile at their keen sense of belonging to their magical world so well-depicted on stage. The sets fluctuate between amateurish and detailed, but standout pieces such as the Ugly Duckling Inn ensure that the sparser scenes are nothing more than a minor blip.

Photo Credit: Ryan Wendler

Praise should also be given to puppet designer, Michael Curry. The show’s puppeteer manages to bring the driven military horse, Maximus, to the stage without sacrificing any of the visual charm which made the character so understandable in the film.

It felt strange watching a show which is so close to pantomime in the height of summer; yet once I understood that Tangled is effectively amateur dramatics with a lot money thrown at it, I was also able to “see the light”. Despite how hairy the show had potential to be – and let me tell you, it’s a show with a lot of hair – the Disney musical is perfectly suitable for a sixty-minute, feel-good mood boost.

Words by Jim Norman.

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