Starting this week, the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre presents the community with a musical comedy based on the ever-popular “Descendants” movies from the Disney Channel. This production brings to stage the beloved characters and hit songs from the films.
The one-act show shares the story of the children of infamous Disney villains who leave their home of the Isle of the Lost — where their families have been in exile — to attend school with the children of the Disney heroes in the land of Auradon. And, in typical Disney fashion, things don’t go very smoothly.
“Expect to see a lot of well-known Disney characters ... years later!” said director Janette Gaines. “What ever happened to Snow White? Did Beauty and the Beast live happily ever after? And what about the villains? This show answers those questions and more. This is a modern-day story of good versus evil, told in an upbeat and memorable way.”
“‘Descendants’ will have you laughing, smiling and dancing in your seat,” said Kate Hollenbeck, who plays Mal (daughter of Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty”). “This cast is bringing some serious hip-hop moves to the JRT stage.”
The uplifting, high-energy show isn’t only about the music and singing and dancing; it also has some deep messages to share with the audience.
“This story is most important for the lessons it teaches,” said Gaines. “Lessons like: good is always better than evil; we are not defined by others; we make our own choices to do the right things; and we are better when we do things together.”
Shawn Hale — who portrays both Jafar (from “Aladdin”) and the King (the former Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”) — added, “I believe that this show has a great message to never judge a book by its cover. Never just take the outside and think you know a person. Take the time to get to know the inside and who that person truly is, and then our world can be a better place.”
The diverse group of multilayered characters brings these lessons to life, as the actors share here:
Abby Raper: “Audrey is Aurora’s (from ‘Sleeping Beauty’) daughter. Even though she’s considered one of the ‘good kids,’ she is not the nicest person around. Audrey is used to getting her own way and doesn’t like it when she doesn’t. However, by the end of the show, she learns her lesson and realizes that it can’t always go her way. This character is very fun to work with because our personalities are so different. I have enjoyed the challenge.”
Kate Hollenbeck: “Mal is a young girl, raised by the evillest villain on the Isle, Maleficent. She’s faced with this internal conflict throughout the whole show: she loves her mom and wants to please her, but at the same time, she doesn’t know if she wants to be evil. When she meets Ben (one of the ‘good kids’), her choice becomes a little clearer. I think we all can relate to Mal’s struggle of wanting to impress the ones we love, but still not being sure of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Sharon Squibb: “I love playing Cruella de Vil because she lives in her own mind and is slightly disheveled. Though at her age she’s pushing the ‘top of the hill,’ this just makes her care less about the opinions of others.”
Shawn Hale: “I play two characters in the show, Jafar and the King. Both think they have raised their children right, or at least the way they think is right. I like the chance to play both a good and a bad character because aren’t we all made up of good and bad — the yin and yang of our inner being and the constant fight in each of our lives? I think there are things to learn from both, and I think both can learn from each other.”
Hollyn Dixon: “Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen from ‘Snow White’) is beauty plus brains, but she doesn’t want you to know that. Growing up on the Isle, her mother always told her that it’s only what’s on the outside that counts. However, she’s a true friend who has your back no matter what. I understand being judged on how you look. Some people only want to see what’s on the surface and don’t want to bother seeing what’s beyond that. Similar to Evie, I run true and deep, and I’m loyal to the end. Hopefully, I’ll be able to show you this side of her that she keeps so hidden away.”
“This show has everything you can think of,” added Dixon. “The dancing is amazing, thanks to our talented choreographer Brittany Whitson. It’s funny, heartwarming, relatable. The music is beautiful, from punk rock to choral. You’ll definitely be moved.”
Disney’s “Descendants: The Musical,” by Nick Blaemire and Madeline Smith, is directed by Janette Gaines, music directed by Shelly Mangiacotti and Gregg Perry, and choreographed by Brittany Whitson. Rounding out the cast are Josh Baldwin, Matt Bruno, Ian Corriere, Stephen Cradic, Kelsey Cullup, Magda Gaines, Molly Gaines, Joseph Hunter, Canyon Kindle, Miranda Laurio, Shelly Mangiacotti, Nathan Marooney, Tristan Matthews, Molly McGill, Susan McNabb, Bonnie New, Taylor Phillips, Corey Tickles and Millie Williams.
Shows run Thursdays through Sundays, Oct. 7-31. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for students and seniors. There is also a special group rate for parties of 15 or more. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423-753-1010 or go online to jonesboroughtheatre.com. The theater is located at 125 W. Main St., Jonesborough, Tennessee.
From the Town of Jonesborough: In accordance with current CDC guidance, masks are kindly requested for all patrons attending performances.