Jones’ ‘Happily Ever After’ a magical experiment in pro-equality musicals

Sammy Caiola, Reporter

You know when you eat the perfect quantity of the most delicious food and you’re perfectly satisfied but you want it to happen all over again? Well, that’s how I felt after seeing the annual Jones Residential College show, “Happily Ever After.

“Happily,” as cast members lovingly call it, is a student-written musical about a lesbian princess fighting for acceptance in an oppressive fairytale kingdom. Princess Katrina, played by Communication sophomore Ali Shields, is the epitome of “Disney Princess” — long blonde hair, pretty dress, trilling soprano — with just one teeny-tiny difference: She can’t fall in love with a prince. This simple detail is revolutionary in itself, shattering Disney’s age-old obsession with heterosexual monogamy. In “Happily,” we see a very “girly” girl discover a very real desire for a neighboring lady in a realm where straight social conventions rule all. We see her come out to her unaccepting father-king, stand up to an evil witch and her anti-gay followers, realize her own love is real and deserving of recognition, and finally convince everyone, father included, to lift the “curse of discrimination” from the realm and throw her a huge wedding.

The genius thing about “Happily” is that it takes the battle for marriage equality, an issue with which we are all intimately familiar, and places it in a new setting that serves to highlight the conflict in a satirical but highly effective manner. For example, the “Wistmorrow Witch” and her ignorant patriotic cronies are a direct reference to the Westboro Baptist Church and its following of homophobes. The show takes a bizarre turn when the witch makes a concoction containing ingredients such as eye of newt, frog’s legs and the blood of an ex-gay in an attempt to save Katrina from her sinful ways. It’s hilarious. But is it really so far off from the actual mentality of extremist anti-gay organizations advocating conversion therapy? Nope. And that’s what’s so eye-opening about this show.

More than anything, I appreciated “Happily” for its genuine commitment to itself. The budding romance between Katrina and her friend Chrissy was pure and infectious, their pleas for acceptance dramatic but believable given the dire circumstances. Even the tap-dancing fairy godfather, played by the fabulous Communication sophomore Frankie Leo Bennett, was a very real emblem of gay unity. Honestly, I felt so much more for these fairytale characters than I did for the fantastical cast of Waa-Muwhose contrived dialogue about dreams and journeys got slightly nauseating after two-and-a-half hours. “Happily,” in its lovable 60-minute package, was the perfect way to spend a Friday evening.

I could not write this review without commending Communication freshman Casey Reed for his work on the original score and orchestration. Every musical number was perfectly crafted to suit the ambiance of each scene, and I found myself singing “Ball of the Year “ my whole walk home. Drawing on both the whimsicality of Disney medleys and the clever repartee of shows like “Avenue Q,” the “Happily” soundtrack contains a little something for everyone.

It’s rare to see a show where the ensemble members are so wholeheartedly committed to every word they sing and every step they take. This was that show. I give it an A++.