Gizel Jiménez stars as Piper in the world premire of “Bliss” at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. Photo credit: Tracy Martin
One thing’s for sure: If you’ve got princess-loving kids in your crew, now is the time to take them to a show in Seattle. With “Frozen,” “Snow White,” and now “Bliss,” all playing in local theaters, ’tis the season for fresh, feminist takes on fairy tales.
But as brilliant as these other two shows are, it's “Bliss,” the new musical on stage at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre (through Feb. 23), that might just be the freshest of them all. Why? “Bliss” doesn’t just tell us it’s time for women to run the show, it shows us. It’s co-written, directed by and starring women in almost every major role. The result is pure magic.
The bottom line
“Bliss” playfully mocks both classic fairy tales and popular culture tropes in a raucous and riveting show, poking fun at everything from plastic surgery to helicopter parenting. The story largely centers on four fairy-tale princesses who’ve been locked in a tower by their overprotective father since their mother’s death. When an accident offers the sisters the opportunity to escape the tower for a night, life beyond the castle walls isn’t quite what they expected it to be.
What we loved
I took my 12-year-old daughter and we both loved the show. We are both experienced theater-goers, but the plot and characters in this show took us both by surprise. Perhaps because fairy-tale revisions are so hot right now, we both thought we knew what we were in for. But, “Bliss” wasn’t what we’d expected and for us, that was a good thing.
For starters, I found that well-developed characters and each actor’s performance added a level of hilarity to the show typically reserved for sitcom-style stories, with each character’s quirks so laughable, they become lovable. Princess Holly (Claire Neuman) was particularly funny as a smelly, disheveled animal lover who asks her forest friends for guidance along the way. She holds ongoing one-way conversations with (and eventually rides) a unicorn on stage. Prince Devon (Conor Ryan) was also very entertaining.
At one point during the show, the villain and fairy godfather, Sir Pincus Glimmermore (Mario Cantone), walks around with a leaf blower that emits shiny pink confetti. At another, the King (Manu Narayan) whips out a saxophone to play a Kenny-G style interlude after singing about the necessity of locking his daughters in a tower to protect them. Prince Devon (Conor Ryan) and his jesters (cast ensemble) dance on stage like a 90s-style boy band, rapping wise, witty and whimsical lyrics at various points throughout the show.
It’s a really fun show. We laughed a lot and I even teared up at one moment.
Parents should know
I’d seen advertising for “Bliss” which suggested it was more of a grown-up tale. But while there’s plenty about “Bliss” that’s entertaining for adults, it’s also entirely family-friendly. There is no cursing, nothing overtly sexual and nothing scary or violent.
My one small issue with the show is that it introduces some beauty standards in ways that could be confusing to kids who’ve grown up in a more body-positive home. As the fairy godfather encourages the princesses to conform, they start to doubt their confidence and individuality. Their self-criticisms are quite harsh. Princess Carmella calls herself fat (and not in a fat-positive way) and Princess Piper refers to herself as ugly. If you’re concerned this could be upsetting to your child, you may want to discuss it before or after the show.
You can bring treats and drinks (with lids) directly into the theater. Just be considerate of performers and other patrons and don't make any noise. And unlike most area venues, intermission is long enough for both a bathroom break and a stop at concessions — hallelujah!
If you go...
Where: "Bliss" is on stage now at The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle
When: "Bliss" is playing through Feb. 23. Run time is about 2.5 hours, including one intermission.
Age recommendation: "Bliss" is a family-friendly show but note that The 5th does not permit children under age 4, including babes in arms. For more information about content, parents should consult the theater's content advisory.
Tickets: $32 and up; buy online or at the box office.