A student-led musical production hitting the stage Thursday night pokes some fun at a beloved Disney production.
Hays High junior Andrew Duke is producing and directing the presentation of “Twisted: The Untold Story of the Royal Vizier,” a parody of Disney’s “Aladdin” that turns the tables, with that animated film’s villain, Ja’far, becoming the protagonist who works hard to do what’s best for the kingdom but takes the blame for its problems. Aladdin is portrayed as a lazy thief and the princess as a spoiled child.
The production is a favorite of Duke’s, he said. He was aware “Twisted” was available for licensing for local productions.
“When I first came up with the idea to do something like this, I thought that would be good to look into. It ended up being something that not only was possible, it was very feasible and workable. So I was very glad I was able to do a show that I really enjoy as much as this one,” he said.
He became familiar with the original production by StarKid Productions posted to YouTube. The video has also been a great resource, he said.
“It’s been useful to have a well-filmed resource of a prior production that I can just look off of and think what would I want to do in this place and get ideas from that,” he said.
The production does have some mature content — some language and sexual innuendo — but the license does allow for editing. Duke does advise it’s still best suited for high school age and up, however.
“It’s a show which is designed less for kids who just want to see a Disney show, and more for young adults who are familiar with Disney and so they’ll get all the prods and pokes at making fun of Disney,” he said.
“I went through and changed up some things in the script. I had to get creative in a lot of ways, but luckily I was able to escape just cutting things out for the vast majority of the show and I feel like the humor still stands up,” he said.
Duke said school administrators approved the production, with only a few compromises such as advertising the show with a PG-13 rating.
While Duke has been involved in Hays High theater productions like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Brightstar” and November’s “Anything Goes,” this is the first time he’s taken on duties of directing and producing.
In fact, the entire production is student-driven, with HHS music and drama teacher Alex Underwood taking only an advisory role. Caitlin Leiker is the music director, and Nathan Leiker is the choreographer.
The cast and crew for the show are all members of the Hays High Chamber Singers, and all proceeds from ticket sales will help fund the group trip in summer 2021. Donations from individuals and sponsors are paying for the cost of the production.
The production is also Duke’s Eagle Scout project. He joined Cub Scouts when he was in the third grade, and is a member of Pack 133.
Dana Cunningham, who is a supervisor for Duke’s project, said while a theater production is not a typical Eagle Scout project, it’s in line with Duke’s skills and interests.
“It’s the first one of that nature I am aware of, really,” Cunningham said. “He looked at the opportunity to look at some of his talents and come up with a project that could benefit the music department.”
Cunningham said he’s looking forward to seeing the final workbook Duke will turn in for his scouting project.
“It will be interesting to see how many hours are involved in this project, because it includes not only his hours, but everybody who participates in that process, as well. Those hours count, as well,” he said.
Duke’s final report on the project will also include its cost and what he learned from it.
“It’s quite an undertaking. It really is a significant amount of work,” Cunningham said.
The students — about 25 — have been rehearsing for about two months. They even fit in a couple of rehearsals during the two-week winter break at the end of the year.
“It’s been going very fast and we’ve been working a lot on the days we’ve been working, but it’s all coming together,” Duke said.
Duke has learned quite a bit from the experience, he said.
“I had kind of kept my eye on how tech was going in previous productions I’ve acted in, but this is the first time I’ve really had to interface with the tech team and figure out what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” he said. “It’s been really fun. I think everyone involved has learned a lot. I’m really grateful I have the team I have, because if I hadn’t been able to work with such great people, I wouldn’t have been able to do all I’ve been able to do.”