Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Descendants: The Musical
Greasepaint Youth Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Hamilton and The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

The Cast
Photo Courtesy of Greasepaint Youth Theatre
The Walt Disney Company has found much success in turning their popular animated films into stage musical hits and they've also adapted a few of their Disney Channel films into stage shows that have been produced by dozens of youth theatres and schools across the country. The first of those TV films turned stage shows, High School Musical, has proven to be quite popular. Their latest TV to stage adaptation is Descendants: The Musical, which is based on a trilogy of TV movies that have been seen by millions of people. Greasepaint Youth Theatre's production of this fun, fast-paced fantasy has a talented cast and energetic choreography.

Descendants: The Musical focuses on the children of famous Disney heroes and villains. The Fairy Godmother put a spell on the villains and their descendants so they were banished to the barren Isle of the Lost while the heroes and their children live on a beautiful island called Auradon. When Ben, the son of The Beast and Belle who rule Auradon, is about to be crowned King, he decides the children of the villains deserve a second chance, so he puts a proclamation in place that allows four teenage children to leave the Isle of the Lost so they can attend the elite Auradon Preparatory school and learn that good is better than evil. The four teenagers chosen are the descendants of Maleficent (Mal), the Evil Queen (Evie), Jafar (Jay), and Cruella de Vil (Carlos). While their initial plan is to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand and free their parents from captivity, Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos begin to have conflicted thoughts concerning their bad behavior and some even have romantic feelings toward their fellow classmates.

The stage adaptation uses the plot of the first TV film as well as songs from all three movies in the trilogy. While the story is slight, the characters are fun, the plot fast-paced, and the music upbeat and catchy. The show has a relatable message about how children shouldn't be judged by the sins and bad deeds of their parents and that no one is perfect—villains or heroes. It also focuses on prejudices that many teenagers face.

Director Rebecca Courtney does a good job keeping the show moving along at a brisk pace and makes sure the cast deliver clear portrayals of their characters. Pete Bish's set design is simple but works fine for the small outdoor stage. The costumes by Mickey Courtney and Trevon Powell are fun and reminiscent of those from the TV films. Music director J'ana DeLaTorre achieves some bright notes and tight harmonies from the group and Dale Nakagawa's lighting delivers some impressive images. But the highlight of the show is Youngjoo Jang's superb choreography that is varied, athletic, modern, and a lot of fun to watch.

Ryan Parker, Olivia Feldman, Lynden Jarman and Jaylen Williams are fierce and funny as Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos, respectively. All four have bright singing voices and look like they are relishing playing these evil characters while also having a blast dancing Jang's fun choreography. Parker's singing voice shines on the several solos and duets and she does a good job in depicting the conflicted feelings Mal experiences. Feldman is comical and charming as the young woman who is out to catch herself a prince while Jarman and Williams are fun and rambunctious as the two teenage boys who prefer stealing over doing their homework. As the strait-laced, good guy Ben, Declan Skaggs is appropriately square and just a little dull, but he lights up whenever Mal is around. The duet Skaggs and Parker have is charming. Sydney Vance is excellent as Maleficent; her solo of "Evil Like Me" soars. The rest of the large cast all have fun in several supporting roles and do a good job in the large dance numbers.

While Descendants: The Musical may not be the greatest musical ever written due to its slight plot and predicable outcome, with fun characters, catchy music, athletic choreography, and a cast who relish playing their villainous roles, Greasepaint's production is a winner.

Greasepaint is presenting this production outside on their courtyard stage with socially distanced seating.

Descendants: The Musical runs through September 18, 2021, at Greasepaint Youth Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale AZ. For information and to purchase tickets call (480) 949-7529 or visit

Directed by Rebecca Courtney
Musical Director: J'ana DeLaTorre
Choreographer: Youngjoo Jang
Sound/Set Designer: Pete Bish
Costume Designers: Mickey Courtney and Trevon Powell
Lighting Designer: Dale Nakagawa
Stage Manager: Andru Moeller

Mal: Ryan Parker
Evie: Olivia Feldman
Jay: Lynden Jarman
Carlos: Jaylen Williams
Ben: Declan Skaggs
Jane: Gwen Selfridge
Chad: Evan Vance
Audrey: Bella Cucchetti
Doug: Chase Harris
Fairy Godmother: Ava Silvernail
Maleficent: Sydney Vance
Grimhilde/ Belle: Sophie Swingler
Jafar/Beast: Carter Hurlburt
Cruella/ Coach: Claire Likes
Royal Page/ Snow White: Arielle Kutz
Royal Guard/ Maurice: AJ King
Ensemble: Hailey Glicksman, Anna Parker, Savannah Farr, Petra Danek, Claire Filipowicz, Bella Luna, Ellie Sachs, Baylee Horvath, Elsa Reid