Susan Egan, Courtney Reed, Laura Osnes – if they’re names don’t click immediately, check your iPod or childhood mix CDs. These ladies are likely some of the voices of your childhood!
The original Broadway Princesses who lent their voices to the soundtrack albums of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Cinderella respectively are bringing a one-of-a-kind cabaret to the Houston Improv.
Egan, who also voiced the ever-sarcastic Meg in Disney’s 1998 classic Hercules, came into the tour 18-months ago and helped re-shape it into a hybrid unseen anywhere.
“Music Director Benjamin Rauhala, who we have lovingly coined the Fairy God Fairy had this idea: what if we got all the princesses together and just sang the princess songs? That would be like a real life princess party. Then Laura Osnes, being a very Type A person, within three hours had a list of everybody. Their first show was a month later!”
“About 18 months ago,” the actress continues, “I came in. I had been on the West Coast for the last decade, raising children. My side of it was, I left Broadway like 15 years ago, but I had been doing tons and tons of animation. With animation comes the Comic Cons! (Which, between you and me, I’d fought that for a long long time.) But then I joined this show called Steven Universe and they had the entire cast on this panel, so I was like: ‘OK I’ll go, but nobody is gonna be interested in me sitting at a table signing autographs!’” It’s safe to say, the acclaimed voice actress was incorrect.
“Oh my goodness,” she mea culpas with chagrin. “Here’s what I learned: Comic Cons are such a warm feeling! Everybody is wonderful and friendly and I loved meeting people face-to-face! Being a part of the Comic Con was fascinating because I would watch these girls comes up to me, dressed as Belle and they’re not competitive! They’re NOT about which Belle is BETTER, they’re all: ‘I love your shoes! Where did you get your wig?’”
But as the actress makes clear, this show is not just about the performances. “My idea, with Laura and Benji, was it make it Broadway caliber,” she explains. “You’re always gonna hear great arrangements, great music, great voices, and yet: bring that Comic Con feel where everyone is a participant, and you’re not watching three princesses on a stage. EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM IS A PRINCESS. You want to make that perfectly clear from the beginning. ‘Look, Snow White is here! Cinderella is here! Sleeping Beauty is here!’ There’s a whole area of people who I don’t think are quite aware of the Broadway side of things, but the idea of Princesses extends both Broadway and Live Action Role Players. I think we should throw them a party, give them another place to wear their dress!”
And when Susan Egan says this thing is a party, she means it. You won’t be finding the typical Houston Improv club rules apply. “You want to film the whole thing? Film the whole thing! Put it all up on your Instagram! We always do meet and greets, we take lots of pictures, and it’s not this formal thing. There’s no rules! It keeps us honest because we have to keep putting new material in! So we’ve got new arrangements coming in and it keeps us always working and doing new things. Also, you never know who’s gonna show up! Last month we had Adam Jacobs, this month we have Adam Levy singing with us. It’s always exciting and there’s always new news to share. The show shifts and bends… and sometimes we have other princesses too!”
If that magic wasn’t enough, this night also has a unique twist of wish fulfillment. Most cities on the Princess tour engaging in what Egan describes as #UnleashYourInnerPrincess contest, where fans can submit videos for a chance to sing on-stage with their heroes. But Houston will be getting something a little different, as they incorporate a very special guest. “In fact, in Houston, Stephanie Styles is going to join us — a hometown girl! And she’s just a kick from Newsies, and she herself is just a crazy Disney fan, and she’s just so extraordinarily talented and she gets up there and just fan-girls on her own material she’s about to sing. It’s just a blast.”
But for those who enter the rotation of guest singers, Egans says they’re in for life. “Once you’re a member of the family, its like the mafia, we’re never gonna let you out,” she deadpans. “We had a girl sing with us in California last year, and she just started her first year at Berkeley School of Music in Boston and we just played Boston, so we were like, “’OK Trinity, come on, get your homework done! We got a party tonight!’”
The energy the now 48-year-old mother puts off is infectious, and Egan prides herself as an ambassador of the Disney Empire. “It is an amazing thing. Beauty and the Beast was 24 years ago, Hercules was 21 years ago – so everybody who was that pivotal age of 11 to 14 is now 27 to 35 and these princesses speak to them! I saw a great interview with Julie Andrews, years and years ago, probably my early 20s, and they asked her: Do you ever get tired of singing the Mary Poppins stuff? She was like: ‘Oh My Goodness! I am so blessed that there is something people want to hear me do. I am the luckiest person in the world.’ My mom and I were sitting there watching that and we were like, if you’re ever in that position… that’s your frame of mind right there.”
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“It’s a real honor,” she offers, reflecting on the gratitude she feels. “I am one of many people who have played Belle at this point, I was lucky to be the first, but that was the luck of timing. But getting to speak to people who, that album spoke to them, or have worked on their Belle costume, or there’s something in Belle’s personality that helps them be more confident in themselves. All of that is really amazing!
But… if the event sounds too childish for your taste, or perhaps too GIRLY, Egan is happy to disabuse you of that notion. “Even if you’re the guy with tattoos up to your chin, and your trucker hat on, you have an inner princess and we will unleash it! If you’re that young boy there with your mom, wearing your tiara – that’s Benji’s story, you know! You are welcome!”
Bare in mind, you might have BYOPC – Bring Your Own Prince Charming.
Performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 13 at Houston Improv on 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $45-90.