Princess parties. They’re definitely not just for little girls anymore.
At least, this one isn’t.
This weekend, direct from New York City, the Broadway Princess Party will make two stops in Utah. The program — combining Broadway, musicals and princesses for an evening of tiara-topped magic — hits the Sandy Amphitheater on Friday night, and follows that with a Saturday evening show at the Kenley Amphitheater in Layton.
While organizers say the whole idea behind the concert is to channel your inner princess, they’re careful to make that an all-inclusive call.
“Our tagline is ‘Unleash Your Inner Princess,’” said Susan Egan, a Tony nominee who performed in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway, and voiced Meg in Disney’s 1997 animated film “Hercules.” “And whether that’s a 30-year-old guy, or a little girl, or a new mom who hasn’t been out of the house for five months — they all have an inner princess.”
This weekend’s shows will be a veritable who’s who of Broadway talent. Along with Egan, the evening features two-time Tony-nominated actress Laura Osnes (for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” and “Bonnie and Clyde”), Drama Desk nominee Christy Altomare (Broadway’s “Anastasia”), and Arielle Jacobs (currently starring on Broadway in Disney’s “Aladdin”).
The four women are accompanied by their Fairy Godfairy, Benjamin Rauhala, who acts as musical director for the evening.
The Broadway Princess Party owes its humble beginnings to a Disney cruise crossing the Atlantic Ocean. After experiencing the ship’s “Princess Tea Party” one evening, Rauhala told friend and Broadway actor Jeremy Jordan he thought it would be fun to host a princess concert with all their actress friends who’d ever played princesses.
That’s as far as the idea went at the time.
“But then Laura (Osnes, who originated the title role in Broadway’s “Cinderella”) came to my birthday party,” Rauhala recalls, “and I had one drink and just enough courage to say, ‘Hey, Laura, I’ve got an idea …’”
Rauhala figured Osnes had just the right “real princess gravitas” to pull off such a show, and she was game for the idea. An hour and a half later, she’d come up with a list of Broadway princesses and the songs they’d sing, and the Broadway Princess Party had begun taking shape.
That first princess party was held four years ago at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City, created, written and co-hosted by Rauhala and Osnes. The show has since played to packed houses in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and elsewhere, and it won “Outstanding Roadshow” at Nashville’s 2019 First Night Awards.
The Layton and Sandy shows represent a first for the Broadway Princess Party: It’s the first time they’ve had four princesses out on the road together — usually it’s just three princesses touring.
And because they have a fourth princess, the Utah shows are doing something new. Previous concerts have held contests looking for a local girl to join the Broadway princesses on stage, but since they already have four princesses on this leg of the tour, Osnes says they’re been looking for Utah princes to join them onstage this time around.
What appeals most to these performers in the Broadway Princess Party is the opportunity to host an interactive concert that encourages audience members to take part in the celebration. The Broadway princesses say they appreciate it when audience members dress up for the concert. And indeed, Egan said she loves to see dads bringing their princess daughters to the show and wearing Prince Charming outfits.
“We’ve even had guys dressed as Elsa from ‘Frozen,’” she said. “Let it bro!”
Osnes believes the Broadway Princess Party offers the perfect balance between the kitsch of the princess stereotypes and the class of Broadway.
“Yes … it’s kind of kitschy — we kind of wink at ourselves — but it’s also super classy,” Osnes insists. “These are real Broadway talents up there on that stage.”
And the music at one of these parties, according to Osnes, is unparalleled. She said there’s a reason these songs have lived on from generation to generation and that they see such a broad spectrum of people at the shows.
“You’ve got grandmas bringing their granddaughters, and we’re getting a lot of diversity in age and background,” Osnes said. “Plus, these songs are so empowering.”
Ah, the “empowering” claim. Interesting, since princess fairy tales have long gotten a bad rap that the women in these stories are merely waiting for a man to save them.
“Princesses do kind of get that damsel-in-distress preconceived notion,” Osnes admits.
However, she said when you consider heroines like Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” or Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” you see that these are powerful women who are only pursuing their dreams.
“They weren’t damsels in distress being saved, they made sacrifices for the people they love,” Osnes said. “I don’t know where that idea (of just needing a man) came from, because I feel Disney’s been ahead of the grade on that.”
Sure, princesses in stories are graceful and kind, but Osnes asks, “Is that bad? Because they’re also strong and courageous.”
“Maybe Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were waiting around for love, but our generation has known strong princesses,” she said. “And I’m married 12 years — happily — so there’s nothing wrong with love.”
People often think princesses only sing love songs and pine for their prince, but Rauhala says most of them sing about going into the unknown, or reaching for their destiny.
“It’s not about love, it’s about going for your dreams,” he said. “And when you saw that anything was possible, you find it was a very emotional experience. When you unleash your inner princess, you unleash your inner dreamer. So, go for it.”
Egan said this empowering feeling permeates the Broadway Princess Party.
“As much as we have a lot of fun in the show, there is that underlying element of strength, of the courage to dream, of the power of kindness — which the world needs right now,” Egan said. “There’s also an element of what it’s like to be a girl. Sometimes girls can be rough with each other.”
As the “eldest” of the princesses, Egan says she knows whereof she speaks. She’s been on Broadway for years, and has experienced what it’s like to have others trying to play actresses against each other — for parts, for publicity, for the sheer sport of watching them tear one another down.
“People want to pit us against one another,” Egan said. “But what Laura and Benji have built here, for the first time you’ve got diverse princesses, onstage, celebrating each other.”
Osnes says that’s something that surprised her and Rauhala at the first concert.
“Watching each other in awe, so inspired by each others’ talent — that was a hidden surprise,” she said. “We don’t get through a concert without crying, usually at that moment when we’re watching each other share our gifts.”
And says Egan: “We get to stand on a stage and all look different, be different ages, and show girls that they can dream different things and support each other.
“Oh, and world peace,” Egan adds with a laugh.
Rauhala says they’ll pull songs from all manner of princess realms — not just the Disney universe — including Broadway musicals, film, television and more. And unlike at many concerts, organizers say you won’t hear any announcements about refraining from photography at a Broadway Princess Party.
“That moment when theaters tell you to turn off your cell phones and not photograph anything? That is eliminated,” Egan says, “We want you to go crazy with your photos, and share them on social media.”
She says there will also be a meet-and-greet following the show, limited to the first 100 people.
Several of these Broadway princesses have Utah ties. Osnes has performed twice with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square — formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — and has a close friend who lives in Utah. Egan has performed with the Utah Symphony no fewer than five times, and has been involved with a number of outdoor concerts here.
Both say they’re taken aback by the beauty of this state.
“Every time I get there, when I’m outside, I do this three-sixty circle and say to myself, ‘Yes, if I were a pioneer, traveling east to west, I would stop and settle here,’” Egan said.
Rauhala points out that the Sandy and Layton shows are the first time they’ve been “lucky enough” to do these princess concerts out-of-doors.
“That will be magical,” he said. “It’s outdoors, the sun is setting during the show. It’s going to be so special.”
And, seeing as how they’re princesses and all, Egan says she’s expecting a bit more out of these al fresco performances.
“If forest creatures don’t come out on the stage with us, it’s going to be disappointing,” she joked. “I want birds to land on my finger as I sing.”