‘Descendants’ brings Disney magic to life

MacTheatre opens its first production of the year with comedic and heartfelt rendition of the movie musical

Senior Maya Cidale (Mal) alongside senior Kathryn Dooley (Evie), junior Henry Mayes (Carlos) and senior Anderson Zoll (Jay) perform “Ways to be Wicked,” a number in which the four evils reunite to take over Auradon. For Cidale, developing her character was a significant aspect of her rehearsal process. “It was actually a very interesting process finding my version of Mal,” Cidale said.  “I started off by pretending to be Regina George if she had magic on her side, but then I took a closer look at how all of the iconic mean girls achieved that status. I realized it was all about making people second guess themselves. From that realization, I stemmed every tactic from wanting people to question what they know is right.” Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.

After weeks of hard work and late rehearsals, MacTheatre students displayed their talent in their annual fall musical: Disney’s Descendents the Musical, adapted from the original 2015 Disney film. Student technicians had to create intricate sets to mimic the movie’s settings, and actors memorized complex dance routines choreographed by dance teacher Natalie Uehara. The show premiered Sept. 8 and will continue its run with four shows next Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are on sale at mccallum.ludus.com or available at the door.   

One twist to the rehearsal process was the departure of theatre director Joshua Denning. This year, new theater director Bonnie Brookby assumes the role of the program head. Instead of burdening the brand new teacher Brookby with the heavy workload of directing a show during the summer, volunteer Cynthia Florez stepped up. Even though Florez is not a McCallum staff member, she has been helping out with the school productions for years. Her work along with everyone else’s helped the program bring the fall musical to the stage. 

ZOLL GETTIN’ THAT GOAL: Senior Anderson Zoll (Jay) performs “Goal” with junior Henry Mayes (Carlos). Fairy Godmother has forced the two evils to try out for Auradon Prep’s Tourney team in hopes of helping them find a place within their new school. For Zoll, the number is a turning point for his character in which his hopes to overthrow Auradon falter.  “Jay begins to see, by playing sports, good can be just as fun as being bad,” Zoll said. The best part of the production for Zoll has been the opportunity to perform for younger viewers. “Most of our audiences have been middle-school and elementary-schoolers who are big fans of the movies,” Zoll said. “It’s such a privilege to get to bring their favorite Disney characters to life. It’s high energy and magical with all the songs from the beloved movies.” Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.

EVIL IN THE AIR: Senior Charlotte Blackmon (Maleficent), has stolen Fairy Godmother’s magic wand in hopes of taking over Auradon to further her own evil agenda. “She’s celebrating that victory and using this new added power to terrify everyone at the coronation,” Blackmon said. “I haven’t played the villain in a long time, and I love the campiness of Maleficent. Everything about her is iconic, so it’s definitely some big shoes to fill, but I have such a good time with her.” Blackmon believes the show wouldn’t have been possible without the support of student technicians who helped to create sets, costumes and props. “I really admire the technicians for this show,” Blackmon said. “Descendants is a very tech heavy production and they’ve really pulled through to make everything look and sound amazing.” Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Sophie Kessler.

Senior Maya Cidale (Mal) alongside senior Kathryn Dooley (Evie), junior Henry Mayes (Carlos) and senior Anderson Zoll (Jay) perform “Ways to be Wicked,” a number in which the four evils reunite to take over Auradon. For Cidale, developing her character was a significant aspect of her rehearsal process. “It was actually a very interesting process finding my version of Mal,” Cidale said.  “I started off by pretending to be Regina George if she had magic on her side, but then I took a closer look at how all of the iconic mean girls achieved that status. I realized it was all about making people second guess themselves. From that realization, I stemmed every tactic from wanting people to question what they know is right.” Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.

KNIGHT OF STARDOM: For junior Addie Knight, the experience of playing Audrey in Mac Theater’s production of Descendants has been a long journey, “The hardest part is probably the lack of time I had,” she said, “It’s every day after school. You have the whole school day, then after school and on Saturdays.” Even after immense practice, Knight wasn’t sure they were completely ready to perform. “I think that an actor is never really ready before their first performance. There’s always more you can do for your character,” they said, “But I think that not being ready is part of the fun of it.” Following a single run-through of the complete performance, though, Knight was confident in her fellow cast and crew, “I think that we were as ready as we’ll ever be,” they said. This was Knight’s first named role in a Mac Theater production, and so far, it’s lived up to all expectations, ” It’s so wonderful,” they said. “I’m so excited to be on a stage that I’ve been wanting to perform on since I was a little kid.” Reporting by Helen Martin. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.

THE MAGIC OF MUSICALS: The Descendants cast gathers on stage during the coronation scene, a celebratory moment before chaos breaks loose, near the end of the musical. Junior and Fairy Godmother actress Sydney Safarik said that the coronation ceremony is an equal parts emotional and action-packed moment for the cast.

“I always like to take a second and take some deep breaths to ground myself beforehand so that I am present and ready to perform the rest of the show,” Safarik said. “This scene is the beginning of the end—the entire cast is onstage until the show is over, so it’s a special moment of us all coming together to finish the show strong.”

Safarik worked hard to balance the goofy nature of the show with adding depth to the fairy godmother’s character, behind all her sparkliness and smiles,  

“My favorite thing about the show would have to be getting to play fairy godmother, and being able to perform in the amazing dance numbers,” Safarik said. “The choreography is so fun to do, and I absolutely love getting to play the sparkly fairy godmother night after night—she has become so special to me throughout the process.“

Through an elaborate set, eye-catching costumes and colorful lights, the musical’s magic is brought to life.

“It has really come together in an amazing way,” Safarik said. “Mac musicals mean everything to me—the tech elements are so strong, and I am performing with some of the most talented people I have ever met. I am always honored and always have a blast with every show.”

Reporting by Ingrid Smith. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.

R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S: Junior Finn Griffith (Ben) asks senior Maya Cidale (Mal) to be his date to the coronation. This follows the number “Did I Mention,” in which Ben professes his love for Mal, who has put him under a love spell. “It’s one of my favorite moments in the show,” Griffith said. “It all feels very wildly over the top in the best Disney type of way. A sports number with a love potion and professing my love in a catchy song. It’s fun to preform a ridiculous number like that.” Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Sophie Kessler.

DEVIL-ISHLY: Junior Henry Mayes (Carlos) triumphantly shows off his prize during a scene in which the “Evils” steal the magic wand. Although Mayes felt his fair share of “opening night jitters,” he felt that the first night of Descendants was different from all the other Mac Theatre opening nights Mayes has been a part of.

“Opening night went about as perfect as we all could have hoped for,” Mayes said. “Most productions have not-so-great opening nights to get into the flow of performing in front of a live audience for the first time. Descendants was special however. Everyone felt the Disney magic as soon as the curtains opened and it was smooth sailing from there. It was really special for the whole cast. None of us had to think about performing. It just happened. We really fed off of the audience.”

Mayes played the role of Carlos, the son of Cruella de Vil. In order to get into the role, Mayes studied clips from the movie in order to fully emulate Carlos’s energy and character arc. “What I love about Carlos, and what I think most people love about Carlos, is that even though he isn’t as evil as his friends, he still makes things work,” Mayes said. “Carlos goes through a big change throughout the show and the movies. Though he will forever remain afraid of dogs, he gets a newfound confidence and it looks really good on him. Of course, playing Carlos is very big shoes to fill.” 

Reporting by Lanie Sepehri. Photo by Francie Wilhelm.

INTO THE SPOTLIGHT: Freshman Ava Dallesandro showcased her many skills while playing multiple characters, including Snow White, a cheerleader, an Aurdonian, and a member of the ensemble. Dallesandro was the only freshman to receive a speaking role in the musical. “Getting the role made such a big impact on me,” Dallesandro said. “When I heard the audience clapping I got chills.” Reporting by Jojo Barnard. Photo by Francie Wilhelm.

A CLOSE TO OPENING NIGHT: After working on their production of Descendants based on the original Disney movie series, the McCallum theatre department and the cast of the show get to close out their opening night and final act. After putting in long hours, elaborate costuming and countless after-school rehearsals to perfect the show, the whole department got to show off its work to the filled audience. While the show contained elements from the original movies such as the hit songs, and characters well known to many, it also contained McCallum’s spin on it, including their very own set design to fit the show. Reporting by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Sophie Kessler. 

The cast of Descendants performing the show’s final number, ‘Break this Down,’ where the evils and Auradonians finally come together and learn to accept each other’s differences, resulting in an energetic and climactic dance sequence. Senior Kathryn Dooley, who plays the role of Evie, feels that “Break this Down” ends the already high energy show on an even bigger high note.

“This show is like a marathon, and we’re really quickly going from one big dance number to the next,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun to end the show on such an exciting number.”

For Dooley, the most rewarding part of Descendants has been seeing audience reactions to the show. “I’ve gotten to meet so many little kids who love the show and some of them even come dressed as the characters. It’s been so much fun to bring some of the Disney magic to them. It’s also been amazing to see the response of all the Mac kids that have come to see it.” Reporting by Alice Scott and Francie Wilhelm. Photo by Meredith Grotevant.