Photo Provided - The cast of the Mendon Drama Club production of Disney’s “Descendants” pose for a photo before a recent rehearsal. Pictured in the front row from left to right are Zoey Carnes, Kohl Gonser, Nevaeh Johnson and Sam Heflin. Pictured in the back row from left to right are Zabrina Zetty, Maddie McLove, Hunter Smith, Iszy Reyes, Kaycie Tyler, Aree Morgan, Addison Shimer, Ean Bingaman, Anna Sanford, Alivia Stuart, Rachael Eberstein, Kevin Morgan, and Alex Verrill.

Mendon Drama Club to put on Disney's 'Descendants' musical

MENDON — What if Disney’s famous villains had kids?

That question comprises part of the premise of Disney’s musical “Descendants,” which will be put on locally by the Mendon Drama Club from Aug. 5-7 and 12-14 at Mendon Elementary School.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. for Friday and Saturday shows and 2 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and can be bought at the door or tinyurl.com/descendantstickets. The discount for students and seniors is not available at the web address.

“Descendants,” co-directed by Eathan Bingaman and Maddy Eickhoff, is a musical based on a Disney Channel Original Movie that follows the story of the children of Disney villains Maleficent (Mal), Jafar (Jay), Cruella de Vil (Carlos), and the Evil Queen from Snow White (Evie). The four live on the Isle of the Lost, a slum set up by the United States of Auradon, a unified kingdom ruled by Belle and Beast from “Beauty and the Beast,” to house the villains. They are invited to live in Auradon as a chance to get away from their villainous parents’ influences, however they are instructed by Maleficent to steal a magic wand while they are there in order to remove a magical barrier that surrounds the Isle of the Lost so that Maleficent can take over Auradon.

The story surrounds the four’s life living in Auradon, and how they try to find their own happiness, their own morality and their own inner goodness despite being raised by villains.

“It’s them fighting with their own morality of how they were raised versus their own situation now. It’s kind of intense, but the way they put it on, it’s really kid and family-friendly and very fun,” Eickhoff said. “It's Disney, I'm a sucker for Disney, and this takes all of the classic stories and twists it into a modern perspective, where it's all about their kids living in the modern world and going through teenager stuff.”

“The message overall is no matter where you're from, you can always make different choices and be better than you were yesterday,” Bingaman said. “I think the script is extremely well-written for high schoolers to be doing. It tackles topics that teenagers are going through, and things that need to be said right now.”

The Mendon Drama Club production of “Descendants” features 17 students in total from Mendon, Centreville and Colon schools. Addison Shimer will play the role of Mal, Alivia Stuart will play Evie, Nevaeh Johnson will play the role of Jay, and Zoey Carnes will play the role of Carlos.

Other roles include Ean Bingaman playing Maleficent, Alex Verrill playing the Evil Queen Grimhilde, Hunter Smith playing Jafar, Zabrina Petty playing Cruella de Vil, Kevin Morgan playing King Adam/the Beast, Rachael Eberstein playing Queen Belle, Anna Sanford playing Beast and Belle’s son Ben, Aree Morgan playing the Fairy Godmother, Iszy Reyes playing the Fairy Godmother’s daughter Jane, Kaycie Tyler playing Princess Aurora’s daughter Audrey, and Kohl Gonser playing Cinderella’s son Chad.

Both directors had nothing but praise for the cast they have had to work with for the production.

“It's really fun. We have a great group of kids. Chaotic, but really, really fun,” Bingaman said. “There are a lot of moments in this show that, for high schoolers around here that are just now getting theater training since I came back and Maddy has joined, there are moments that are breathtaking. Just really powerful moments that make you proud as a director when you watch them and you're like, they're connecting and they're listening to each other on stage, it gets a tear in your eye.”

“They're also a creative group; they add a lot to this show that we would never have thought of,” Eickhoff, who is also the music director for the show, said. “I'm not college-level trained in music direction or anything like that, but coming in here, working with these kids, getting to know what they're capable of and pushing them to that point has been a lot of fun. This past week, we have one song where their mindset is, we have to impress, and they do. It brings me to tears every time they sing it, and it is amazing. It's amazing what these kids have turned into.”

The cast started out with 24 students, both directors said, but due to 4-H and fair commitments, the number dwindled down to where it is now. A few of the cast members have had to take on multiple roles in the production, but overall they said they were “impressed every day” by how the cast has done in rehearsals.

This weekend’s performances mark the first time since 2019 a production by the Mendon Drama Club has been performed at the Mendon Elementary stage, located in the gymnasium. Bingaman said the elementary’s gymnasium space is “great for theater,” and is trying to utilize it to its full advantage for the production.

“We're fixing things up, we're getting the lights up, we have new microphones, and we're investing a lot into the infrastructure to make sure that everything's up to where it should be,” Bingaman said. “You have all this space in front, you have all the seating, you can do a lot in here. We have stretched this theater and show as far as it can go. We're putting the finishing touches on being able to do that lighting-wise.”

He added “Descendants” might be the club’s biggest production yet, with a run time of around two hours and having the biggest cast of its size since 2016’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Throughout it all, Bingaman said he has enjoyed being one of the directors for the production, the first time he has directed a Disney show. He also gave praise to the production’s music, calling them “bops from top to bottom.”

“There's no song that isn’t good in this show, and the kids have never sounded better,” Bingaman said.

However, the production is a bit bittersweet for Bingaman, as it will be the final time he’ll be directing a show with the drama club. He said he is planning on moving to Chicago in the near future to pursue his dreams of being an actor. He said he feels a bit “melancholy” about it, but is looking forward to his final curtain call as a local director.

“I'm excited to move, but it's sad. Part of me was like, I can keep doing this until my brother graduates or whatever, but you have to get started at some point,” Bingaman said. “I'm like, I'm 23, if it doesn't work, you can come back here, and I'm doing the same thing I'm doing now, but I have to try.”

Following the production, Bingaman will be transferring leadership of the drama club to Eickhoff, something she joked was “scary,” but something she looks forward to taking on.

“Before this, I've only directed one show, which was at the Three Rivers Community Players. After this show, I think I'm better equipped than I was before,” Eickhoff said. “This is definitely an impressive starting point for the group from where it was in the past.”

Overall, Bingaman said audiences can expect to have a lot of fun with the production if they come to see it.

“We've told the kids multiple times, as long as you're having fun, the audience will. Every day, it looks like they're having fun, so the audience will too,” Bingaman said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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