Quinn Mei Lysaght majored in musical theater at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University, but she had the misfortune to graduate in spring 2020, when the world shut down due to Covid-19.

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Quinn Mei Lysaght, who now lives in New York City, with Baayork Lee — who was the original Connie in “A Chorus Line” on Broadway (1975), and founded the National Asian Artists Project.

Luckily, the world’s turned around – she took Manhattan by moving there Aug. 1, and Lysaght is making her regional theater debut in Circa ‘21’s new production of the wacky, naughty musical, “Disenchanted!” – based on some very well-known Disney heroines. She is literally living a dream playing three roles: Hua Mulan, Pocahontas, and Princess Badroulbadour, thrilled to be part of the Q-C premiere of what she called a “magical production.”

“I have been yearning over the past 16 months during theaters going dark to create — live with people, real people (not over Zoom — although that was a beautiful new experience too in the past!) — having the camaraderie between the cast, creative, and production team has been so humbling,” Lysaght said recently by email. “I feel so grateful I get to wake up and do this every day.”

“To say that I’ve been loving the process and the people is an understatement,” she said. “They make this

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Quinn Mei Lysaght, seen in “Disenchanted,” graduated in 2020 from Point Park University, with a bachelor’s in musical theater.
* Disenchanted: “DIS!,” as the show is affectionately known, debuted in 2009, and went on to win the 2010 New Jersey Playwrights Contest, as well as the 2011 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival’s Producers Award for Best of Fest.

process even more fun than I could’ve ever imagined, and we all have such a great time playing around artistically with our choices…In my opinion, Disney is not looked down upon or portrayed in a negative light.

“The ‘spoof’ is really the story behind every woman that steps on stage (the princesses) as they tell their truth and nothing but their truth to the audience,” Lysaght said. “I don’t believe that heroines are mocked, I believe that there are comedic places in the show that truly intend to highlight the comedy of the so-called ‘Princess Complex,’ as the show will hopefully provide audience members with a sense of sincerity, female empowerment and relatable moments to touch the lives of those watching us tell our story on stage.”

With Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in this hilarious hit musical, Cinderella is kind of a nitwit, Snow White can be a little mean and Sleeping Beauty…well, she’s apparently a narcoleptic. In “Disenchanted” (rated PG-15), the six-woman, all-princess revue is aimed at upending their popular portrayals.

When the princesses rail against princes who expect them to do all the housework, you can forget the princesses you think you know, as well as such familiar characters as Pocahontas, Ariel, Rapunzel, Mulan and the Princess Who Kissed a Frog. These royal and ruthless renegades are tossing off their tiaras to set the record straight in this not-for-the-kiddies girls-night out retro rebellion – a show that London Theatre Reviews called “sass-fueled enjoyment” that’s “not to be forgotten.”


Lysaght has been a member of The National Asian Artists Project (NAAP) Broadway Chorus since 2015. NAAP was founded by Baayork Lee, the original Connie in “A Chorus Line” on Broadway, and she’s worked closely with Lee ever since.

“Baayork was the one who actually sent my materials over to the director and producer for ‘Disenchanted’,” she recalled. “I was asked to

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Erica Lee Bigelow, Kim Kurtenbach, Tammie Harris, Sydney Dexter, Shelley Walljasper, Quinn Mei Lysaght.

submit an audition tape, and just a few days later I was offered all 3 of the roles! I read that email and cried of happiness. This is my first professional regional theatre production and I am over the moon. I cannot thank Baayork enough for all of the incredible work she has done for not only in the theatre community but for myself as a young artist. She is one of my inspirations and such a phenomenal mentor. To top all of that off, she is a beautiful soul- humble, kind and genuinely a wonderful human being.”

Lysaght worked with Lee in an adaption of “Alice in Wonderland” in her hometown in Rockville Centre (Long Island, N.Y.) at Molloy College. “She asked if I was interested in attending rehearsals and being an assistant. I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “She provides such a warm, safe and fun space to explore as an artist in rehearsal room and or on stage.”

After Covid, the theater community has persisted – and major Broadway musicals (“Hamilton,” “Wicked” and “The Lion King”) also reopened this week.

“Live shows have returned, box offices have re-opened and everything is comin’ up roses (and daffodils),” Lysaght said, quoting a famous number from “Gypsy.” “We are back, and I believe we as a theatre community are stronger than ever. I’ll never take for granted an audition opportunity, callback, performance, bow. Life is absolutely uncertain and as this past year and a half has proven, anything can happen.

“All we have to do is be ready, live and love in the moment and continue doing what makes us feel alive. Fulfilled, you ask? I say absolutely beyond,” she said. “I feel as if I’m living in a dream.”

Another newcomer and four Circa veterans

 Also making her Circa debut now is Tammie Harris (Princess Who Kissed The Frog), an actress/singer hailing from Georgetown, Ky. She’s played roles from a 17-year old mother in “A Song for Coretta” to diva Effie White in “Dreamgirls.” Lately, she’s done background work for

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Kim Kurtenbach, Sydney Dexter, Erica Lee Bigelow.

television shows, including “Saints & Sinners,” and the upcoming musical movie, “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“I thought the premise of the show was interesting and seeing the princesses with completely different, fleshed out and empowered personalities sounded like something I had to be a part of,” Harris said of “Disenchanted.” “Since this is my first show since the pandemic, everything about the atmosphere and the theater itself has been incredible. I’m so happy to be here!

“My character does have a bit of a show-stopping number and a costume change mid-song. I hope everyone who sees the show loves it as much as I do,” she said. “It definitely turns every stereotype about fairytale princesses on its head in a way that is really witty and tongue-in-cheek. You have to come to the show to see how.”

The cast loves working with veteran director Cory Johnson and music director Ron May, Harris said. “Obviously, they’re both incredible at what they do and make us as actors feel secure and comfortable in our roles. But they’re also great people and they’ve made this the BEST experience for all of us. We rehearsed in masks during our first few rehearsals. As we began to spend more time with each other, we’ve rehearsed without them. It’s not ideal, so yes, it was somewhat hard. But we did what we had to in order to keep each other safe.”

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Director Cory Johnson has taught theater at St. Ambrose University for 33 years.

“Cory and Ron are the greatest,” Lysaght said, adding choreographer Andrea Moore is as well. “All of them have a vision for the show in which they collaborate on and create something artistically beautiful. It has really been such a pleasure working with the three of them — their professionally, humor, and pure generosity and respect they have for everyone involved in the production is an incredible gift.”

She felt comfortable rehearsing/singing in a mask “as I have been singing throughout the pandemic nonstop, hence I am not bothered if I am asked to abide by any mask policy for a theatre company,” Lysaght said. “Although, on the other side of the table, I know it was especially hard for some of the technical production staff and even the creative team to successfully complete their work due to the fact that our individual speaking and singing voices were required to be heard for the sake of volume levels, vocal, music and acting notes. I did get very sweaty during rehearsals with choreography, but it was still a blast! Just a little more frequent mask laundry to do.”

The cast features a talented quartet of venue veterans: Erica Lee Bigelow (“Beehive: The ’60s

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Music director Ron May (retired from teaching at Moline High School and Creative Arts Academy) has music directed several Circa ’21 productions.

Musical”); Sydney Dexter (“Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook”), and longtime Circa ’21 favorites Kim Kurtenbach (“The Savannah Sipping Society”) and Shelley Walljasper (“Grumpy Old Men: The Musical”). Dexter also is a Circa Bootlegger, a member of the performing wait staff.

“I wanted to do this show because I think it is so unique and just so fun,” Bigelow (who also will perform at Circa for this holiday season) said. “After doing ‘Beehive,’ I realized how powerful it was to work with such a female-dominated team and cast, and I was so looking forward to doing it again. ‘Disenchanted’ isn’t a show that you see a lot of theatres doing, so I’m very grateful to have the chance to do it!

“I love the positive energy and good people at Circa. Working here feels like coming home,” she said. “I love the energy and the female empowering message! Cinderella is a character who really comes into her own as the show progresses and I love getting to go on that journey with her every night. Also, every single song is so much fun.

“I wouldn’t say it spoofs the Disney characters so much as it sees them in a new light,” Bigelow said of the silly show. “We are merely seeing these already well-loved characters from a modern, female perspective. I don’t think the show is intending to make fun of or mock Disney in any way. Instead, it gives the princesses a chance to tell their stories in their own words.”


“The fact that we are getting to go onstage and perform again is a blessing that I refuse to take for granted,” she said, noting the initial wearing of masks. “I, like everyone else, want the theatre to remain open, so I will take every precaution to make that happen. After a year and a half of wearing a mask, I’m used to it now.”

“Never in my life did I think that I would get to be a PRINCESS, but here I am, grateful and excited to play with this talented team

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Quinn Mei Lysaght, Kim Kurtenbach, Erica Lee Bigelow, Tammie Harris, Sydney Dexter, Shelley Walljasper.

in ‘Disenchanted,’” Shelley Walljasper (who started doing Circa shows at age 9) wrote in her bio. “Similar to Sleeping Beauty, I loooove a good nap. I also have my very own Prince Charming, Tom. We have 3 beautiful daughters and 2 of the most adorable grandchildren that you have ever seen.

“I want to dedicate this show to all of my real woodland friends. When Covid and lockdown hit, I started feeding stale bread crumbs to the birds. Now … I have lots of sparrows, several other variety of birds, squirrels,  chipmunks, dogs, cats and rabbits that bring me joy each morning as they greet me,” she wrote. “I’m not kidding. Charming puts up with it because he loves me. It’s the little things that make life PERFECT. I just wish that they would clean the house like they do in the movies.”

Walljasper called “Disenchanted” new “and fresh and edgy.” “I guess I like the way that it tries to teach the audience a really important lesson in a fun way,” she said. “Sleeping Beauty is a lot like me and I connect with her thoughts and desires.”

“Walking into Circa is like walking into home,” she said. “The smells, the energy, he love. I enjoy working with a team of creative individuals with the same goal, a good story.”

Walljasper had never worked with Cory Johnson (who’s taught theater at St. Ambrose University 33 years) before as a director. “I heard that she is wonderful in every way. Wow! The hype is true!” she said by email. “I get the feeling that she really cares about me and my process. And she loves questions and takes the time to help you answer them.

“I also have to give a shout-out to Andrea. The show is full of musical numbers and she has been very patient and diligent to make us look good,” Walljasper said. “She choreographs with an awareness of her performers’ abilities. Andrea is one of those people that always has their shit together no matter what role she’s stepping into — choreographer, director, actor, operations manager, bootlegger, etc.”

Juggling school and Circa

Johnson also loves this experience, after having directed “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “The Glass Menagerie” for the Mississippi Bend Players and “Cabaret” and “Tartuffe” for St. Ambrose.

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Kim Kurtenbach, Quinn Mei Lysaght, Krianna Walljasper, Shelley Walljasper, Sydney Dexter, Erica Lee Bigelow, Tammie Harris.

It’s been 18 years since she has directed at Circa, where she’s been friends with owner/producer Denny Hitchcock for ages, and often acted on the dinner theater stage. At Ambrose in Davenport, Johnson will be directing the musical “Little Women” next spring.

“I love Circa ’21; I have a longstanding and deep friendship with Denny Hitchcock, and I was nervous during Covid that they were closed for so long,” she said this week. “Anything that Denny asked me to have done, if I was able to do it, I would do it. So, it worked into my schedule. I was able to juggle my classes along with this. Plus, it’s a really fun play about women and men, and the images we grew up with that have really shaped our impressions and maybe mis-impressions. It’s funny and heartbreaking at points and entertaining at the end of the day.

“With everything that’s going on in the world, a good laugh is cathartic,” she said. “Ancient Greeks said, theater should evoke a catharsis – and that means a good cry or an incredibly good laugh. This, I believe will give you an incredibly good laugh, and maybe teach you something along the way. Not heavy-handed.”

You will recognize the characters, but they will not have the same appearance or personality as the original Disney versions did, the director

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Sydney Dexter, Quinn Mei Lysaght, Krianna Walljasper, Erica Lee Bigelow, Kim Kurtenbach, Shelley Walljasper, Tammie Harris.


“While it’s kind of a pushback on Disney princesses, we all love Disney,” Johnson said. “It is just an exploration of, hey, everybody can be a princess. You don’t have to fit in this mold that was once upon a time, the only way you could be considered a princess. It’s celebrate who you are, not what somebody else says you should be.”

The show addresses body image and the role of women, though it’s not a “man-bashing” show, she said. “It does say, we love our husbands, but don’t treat us like a 1950s housewife that suggested all I wanted to do was vacuum the floor and iron clothes.”

Johnson remembered her grandmother wearing a corset into her 80s. because she believed she had to have a small waist. “It was the idea we have to look a certain way,” she said, noting her older sister noticed when Cory grew taller than her, she remarked, “I hope you don’t grow any taller or who will ask you out?”

“I love this play says, be short, be tall, be narrow, be wide – have a 21-inch waist or have a 31-inch waist,” Johnson said. “Be you, and you are the perfect you, whatever that means.”


She stressed the often bawdy, profane show is not for kids, and it’s a musical revue format.

“It has a thematic through-line that carries the different cabaret numbers together,” Johnson said. There are some serious moments as well – including racism and cultural appropriation. It addresses Pocahontas and her relationship with John Smith, even though she was really 10 years old, but made out to look much more mature.

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Johnson last directed “Tartuffe” at St. Ambrose in April 2019.

“She was only 10 years old, but the movie shows her as shapely,” Johnson said. “It sexualized her. There’s even a few laughs amidst the pathos. You can kind of laugh, lest you cry. But most of it is pretty broad comedy, to be honest. Don’t bring your children. It’s six broads being broad about their comedy.”

The last live theater she directed that was staged was Moliere’s “Tartuffe” in April 2019; Johnson was three weeks from opening “Dancing at Lughnasa” at SAU in April 2020, when Covid shut things down.

She’s thrilled to be working again with Kim Kurtenbach, a 1996 SAU alum and close friend. They acted together in a 2010 Curtainbox production of “Hedda Gabler,” and Kurtenbach also has taught theater at

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

Erica Lee Bigelow, Sydney Dexter, Kim Kurtenbach.

her alma mater.

And another former student of Johnson, Kendall McKasson, is “Disenchanted” stage manager. “She’s doing great,” she said of the ’18 SAU grad.

“I love digging into really dense plays, but I love doing musicals as well – they’re just a lot more complicated,” Johnson said. “A straight play doesn’t quite put you through the ringer that way.”

She said directing “Cabaret” at SAU in 2018 was one of her favorite experiences. “I love doing musicals, but because I’m a more literary sort, I often move to straight plays,” she said.

The Circa creative team includes Susan Holgersson as scenic designer; Gregory Hiatt as costume designer; Heather Hauskins as lighting designer; Sam Ramont as sound designer; Kendall McKasson as stage manager and props master, and Mike Turczynski as technical director.

“Disenchanted!” runs through Nov. 6 and has scheduled performances on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:45 p.m., Sundays at 5:45 p.m., and Wednesday matinées at 1:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $56.55 for the evening dinner-and-show productions and $49.73 for the plated-lunch matinées.

Reservations are available through the Circa ’21 ticket office. Contact the theater at 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island or by calling 309-786-7733 ext. 2. Due to state requirements, masks must be worn by all Circa guests, regardless of vaccination status.

Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
Women Loving the Thrill of Getting Back on Stage in Naughty “Disenchanted!” Musical

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