A Disney mystery for grown-ups

… and you, the audience, decides whodunit!

Kelly Holm, Reporter

Smartmouth Comedy’s Who Killed Ariel?: A Princess Murder Mystery was a raging success, with the house completely packed and the audience chuckling their way through both acts. Produced through the Phoenix Theater, the comedy details how the princesses we knew and loved as children behave when their under-10 fanbase isn’t watching. The premise: After a lengthy engagement, Princess Rapunzel (Kendra Yarke) of Tangled is finally marrying Flynn Rider. Her best friend, Cinderella (Jenna Pulkrabek), invites fellow Disney darlings Tiana (Atim Opoka), Mulan (Alice McGlave), and Belle (Bailey Hess) over for a bachelorette party.  Oh, and Ariel, who no one likes- Rapunzel suggested as a joke that she be invited, but Cinderella took the attempt at humor seriously and added her to the guest list, much to the chagrin of the other princesses.

The red-headed mermaid, played by Jaclyn O’Neil, is no longer the headstrong teen that she was in her 1989 film- she is now portrayed as a self-indulgent, adulterous, culturally appropriating villainess, and the fact that she ran away from her family and gave up her voice all in pursuit of a man is frequently mentioned. While her peers catch up on what they’ve been doing since happily-ever-after, Ariel adjusts her auburn locks and takes selfies, oblivious to the female bonding going on around her. The other princesses aren’t reluctant to voice their disapproval of her, but she doesn’t notice, or else she just doesn’t care, and her motivation for attending the party seems to be simply to ruin it for everyone else.

Despite being married adults, the princesses act every bit as petty and childish as a clique of junior high kids, with the titular murder arising from a lights-out frenzy during a  high-stakes game of Truth or Dare. When no one is paying attention, Ariel is stabbed with her own “dinglehopper”, as she still insists on not calling it a fork. The surviving princesses turn on each other, all trying to deduce the reasons the guilty party might’ve done it, yet still maintaining enough of an alliance to move the body and attempt to keep the crime a secret from male stripper Todd (Michael Weingartner) and later, detective Leira Yensid- yep, that’s “Ariel” and “Disney” spelled backwards- also played by O’Neil. In the ensuing investigation, the princesses’ pet peeves and weaknesses are laid bare: Cinderella resented the fact that Ariel always complained about her overprotective father when her own was dead, while Belle just really hated The Little Mermaid, citing disdain for its questionable messages, even though the wholesomeness factor of her own movie is also debatable (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?).

As for the culprit? Well, that’s up for the jury to decide, and in this play, the jury is you. The audience of Oct. 28 voted to convict Cinderella, whose emotional outburst in the interrogation room was awfully incriminating. Belle, however, still seemed quite suspicious in her own right.

A comical farce the whole way through, Who Killed Ariel? would make the perfect outing for a bachelorette party of one’s own. It’ll make you laugh, then cry because you laughed so hard, and then cringe when you realize that a few parents probably brought their Disney-loving offspring to this, thinking it would be a kid-friendly show.