Tustin’s ‘Ever After’ cheers children with much-loved princesses

Mia Mercadante wanted the three princesses all to herself.

The 4-year-old Irvine girl employed many a tactic to distract them from all the other children huddling about in awe. She danced, she sang, she plopped down on laps, she asked Cinderella to tie her shoe. She even offered gifts, including the “Tinkerbell jar” she had just decorated with glitter.

“I love them so much!” Mia announced.

Mia and dozens of other kids came to the Tustin Senior Center on a recent Sunday afternoon to participate in a fund-raising event for a family battling cancer. There were loads of activities – games, arts and crafts and a booth for elaborate face painting.

But many of the little girls just kept gravitating back to Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel, who stood off to the side offering hugs and cheerful chitchat.

The young women played their roles enthusiastically, never breaking character, with chirpy voices, exaggerated expressions and theatrical gestures.

“Everyone freaks out when they hear Snow White,” said Snow White, aka Gracie Lacey, 19, a film student at Orange Coast College.

An old pro, Lacey has been portraying Snow White since she was 13 for various princess-supply businesses. Last June, she signed up with Tustin-based Ever After Princess Events, founded in 2015 by Kimberly Esmond.

The company is an offshoot of Esmond’s OC Dance Productions in Irvine, which the Tustin resident started a decade ago.

Ever After Princess Events has 22 “cast members” and another 17 dancers – mostly college students working part-time – to entertain at birthday parties, corporate events and other fetes. Her staff is relatively interchangeable, adept at playing any number of roles, from Mulan to Belle to Barbie, or a generic mermaid, fairy or elf.

Esmond, 42, juggles at least eight assignments a weekend, and as many as 14 during summer months. Most characters go for $169 an hour, plus another $99 for each additional actress. Swimming mermaids cost…

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