What happens to the princess after the end credits roll?
Spencer middle school’s upcoming musical, They All Lived Happily Ever After, examines those questions, mining the lives of seven Disney princesses from Snow White to Cinderella and following their journeys after the final kiss. Real stories can be just as interesting as fairy tales, says 14-year-old musical theatre student Akasha Zunker, who is among 30 students to put new twists to old classics.
“All the fairy tales have these very happy endings, but it’s interesting to see what happens next, because in real life it doesn’t always happen that way,” said Zunker, who plays Snow White. “That’s what makes it interesting, we all have our little problems.”
Each princess played by a Spencer student experiences real-life challenges, including Belle, who must deal with the Beast’s controlling behaviour. Snow White works through a strained relationship with her husband from spending all her time with the Seven Dwarves, while Sleeping Beauty hesitates to sleep because she fears she may never awake.
Spencer drama and dance teacher Cynthia Berenyi, who write and directs the musical, presented each student actor with their character and asked what their problems might be.
“(For example,) Ariel got married at 16 and she misses her family. She is young and rethinking things and visits her family, but has to keep (the marriage) secret,” she said. “Because people would think it was weird to be talking to fish in the water.”
Other princesses Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Jasmine and Elsa, sing songs made famous by their respective movies. They’re joined by other animated characters, including Olaf the snowman from Frozen and not-so-popular characters, such as Cinderella’s evil stepsisters. All play a role in the thematic through line of the musical’s many story lines, Berenyi said. They’re both life lessons and artistic lessons for the musical theatre students in her class.
“Being a middle school teacher, one of the most important things to teach people is how life is really is … to make those things clear to them or introduce it to them so they would think on it a little more,” she said. “Also, if you are an adult, it is not just for kids – everyone can relate to the musical.”
The production, which features some elements Berenyi drew from real-life experiences, has been a formidable challenge for both her and the students. But she looks forward to the performances of the 30-student cast and crew that brings the story to life.
“I am really proud of people that have committed to being their characters; we have (such) a strong group,” Berenyi said. “You go through these moments, you are crying or someone is crying, but it all comes together and you feel proud of yourself and you forget those moments.”
They All Lived Happily Ever After plays Friday, June 5 at 7 p.m., at the Isabelle Reader Theatre on 1026 Goldstream Ave. inside the school. Tickets are available ahead of time at Spencer’s main office.