The cast of Unhindered & Ungendered: Once Upon A Spinning Wheel – The Villains Take A Turn. Photo: Wayward Actors

Unhindered & Ungendered: Once Upon A Spinning Wheel – The Villains Take A Turn!

Directed by Valerie Canon

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright, © 2021 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

The Unhindered and Ungendered series has become something of a mainstay on the local theatre schedule, as reliable as Rocky Horror or Kings of Christmas in delivering a slightly subversive tribute to mainstream musical theatre. U&U lifts characters and songs from their original context and drops them into a revue format with little regard (more or less) for the gender or specifics of the original. The concept is just free-wheeling enough to be meta but loves the various characters and songs pulled into service.

This year’s iteration collects a range of villains from various animated films into a rogue’s gallery waiting to perform when called up by Master of Ceremonies Prince Hans from Frozen (a perfectly unctuous James Thompson). Although the sequence is randomly based on the spin of a wheel, each character has their moment (or two) in the spotlight to annoy each other; most of them don’t exactly get along and an out-and-out brawl is narrowly avoided.

The design of the costumes is exemplary. There is no credit for either, but my guess would be a collaborative effort between director Valorie Canon and her cast. Some, such as Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and Captain Hook from Peter Pan are accurate representations of their film appearance, but Scar was more expressionistic. Rather than encase Nazaneen Ehsani in fur and mane, strategic costume pieces and makeup were the foundation for her delightfully nasty reading of the character.

Overall the ensemble had a blast embracing the over-the-top energy required by the concept, moving and dancing with great specificity and solid comic timing in the delivery of the dialogue. Not one of them dropped the ball on that count.

As for the singing, while each performer worked hard to put their number across, the range in the vocal projection left some songs almost impossible to hear. The venue was small and not usually one that required body mics, but it was a shame that some of the vocals were lost. In each instance, the actor was doing solid character work in the playing.

It must be said that the entire cast and band were masked with clear plastic shields covering their mouth and nose, and this obviously was a factor. The fact that this thoughtful safety measure is prudent doesn’t erase the problem. Joy Beth Dewitt-Riley’s impassioned performance of “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was an example of a finely trained voice that could overcome any such obstacle, and Ashleigh Skaggs put “The Other Side” (The Princess and the Frog) across with almost equal force. And while I don’t necessarily think Taylor Clemons has equal vocal training, his uproarious delivery of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (The Little Mermaid) made the lyrics come off the stage through sheer force of will.

Most people will recognize those characters, but a few of these villains are fairly unknown. A movie you’ve never heard of called Cats Don’t Dance yielded a brief but brassy “Big and Loud” that was a perfect showcase for Emily Vergason, who belted it out with the perfect sullen and bratty flavor. And how many people remember The Great Mouse Detective enough to remember “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”, here performed by a suave and sneaky Herschel Zahnd. 

And did I mention the indispensable Magnolia Hensley’s Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)? Even when completely unrecognizable under elaborate make-up and costume, Hensley makes a lasting impression.

A crackerjack band accompanies all of this, and they drop a quick tune or two themselves coming in and out of intermission; I particularly enjoyed the ramped-up “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), from The Jungle Book.

Enjoyable as all of this is, I do long for the Unhindered and Ungendered series to revisit the darker, more adult-themed shows of its past, in which love and murder were sometimes the focus. In the meantime, this vaudeville exorcism of evil intentions may just speak to the times as much as any more “serious” theatre endeavor, and you may feel compelled to sing along.

Rachel Allen, Taylor Clemons, Fallon Crowley, Joy Beth DeWitt-Riley, Nazaneen Ehsani, Kim Hartz, Magnolia Hensley, Jake Minton, Erin Nayoma, Ashleigh Skaggs, Christopher Smith, JoAnne Sweeny, James Thompson, Emily Vergason, & Herschel Zahnd

Dan Canon – Guitar, Derek Carpenter – Bass, Susan Crocker – Drums, Paul Stiller – Keys

Unhindered & Ungendered: Once Upon A Spinning Wheel – The Villains Take A Turn!

August 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 @ 7:00 pm
August 22 & 29 at 6:00 pm


Wayward Actors Company
At The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for