“Twisted”- Starkid show review

I have been a fan of Team Starkid from their very first video. Team Starkid are a musical theater group based out of Chicago currently. They are a group of friends who went to the University of Michigan together. A few years ago the put up a play on Youtube called, A Harry Potter Musical (since changed to A Very Potter Musical for copywrite reasons). They put it up so friends and family could see it without them having to make a ton of different DVDs. Not long after it went it up it became a viral hit. Since then the have a gathered a faithful following across the internet.

One of the reasons I am such a fan of Starkid is because of instead of just basking in the popularity of their video for a minute, they took what was being handed to them and ran with it. They saw an opportunity to continue to do what they love and they have been doing that every since. Since then they have put up that first video they have made two other Harry Potter parody musicals, a musical about a talking penis(actually extremely creative), a musical that is basically like Little Mermaid in space, a musical about Batman and their latest musical Twisted, the untold story of Jafar. They have also traveled around the country on two tours with the music from their shows as well as appearing at a number of conventions. Each member is also involved in side projects as well.

The insanely talented group released their latest musical Twisted on Youtube on Thanksgiving. Previously their musicals have been completely funded and produced by themselves, this was the first time they asked for help by the way of a Kickstarter. They made a video explaining their idea for the show and why they needed the money. I donated because of how a big of a fan I am of theirs. They are seemingly humble people and they were floored by how much support they received for this project.

I have been very curios from the beginning how this show would turn out now that they had this money. I have to say I was not disappointed in the least bit. There was little to no scenery but the puppets were spot on, the script was brilliant, the songs were catchy and emotional and the acting was , as always, fantastic. This production was fun to watch, made you laugh and cry and gave a fantastic message as each of their shows always does.

There are a number of faces you will see often in Starkid shows. Overtime they have been steadily adding new faces and cast members as either original cast members move and are unable to come back to Chicago or they gain different jobs making them unavailable. I also think they are expanding to broaden their talent pool and increase the types of show they can do in the future.

Jafar was played by Dylan Saunders, and he was fantastic as he always is. Dylan has played a variety of parts from Dumbledore to, a not-all-that smart, country bumpkin who falls in love with a robot. He has shown that he has the ability to play a variety of parts and make each one memorable and quotable.

I really liked his portrayal of Jafar. The point of Twisted was to tell Jafar’s side of the Aladdin story. Dylan made Jafar an extremely sympathetic character who we easily relate to and feel connected to. Jafar is no longer a villain out to take over Agrabah and become an all consuming ruler. Jafar is a man who loses the love of his life and is constantly battling to better a land that wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

The emotion he brings to the moment when he loses his wife and to the moment when he decides saving himself is not as important as saving the land his loves, is fantastic and heartbreaking. You hurt watching it because you completely understand and relate to his plight. Jafar is a tragic hero, he has huge ideals and knows ways to make them happen but the world does not care and is constantly fighting against him. Yet he still stands on his feet and tries to do the best he can. In the end all we want to see is him happy and whole. Dylan’s portrayal is what makes this work so well. He doesn’t shy away from any of the deeper emotions, he gives Jafar a certain light and life that makes it very easy to root for him throughout the whole play.

Meredith Stepien plays Jafar’s wife Sherrezade, a young woman who loses an ear because she looked at a nobleman wrong. Jafar helps her and bandages her ear, instantly falling in love with her. She in turn falls in love with him as well. They begin a sort of tragic love story, though one that ends up getting a happy ending.

Meredith makes Sherrezade the perfect antithesis to Jafar. Jafar is a very rational man who believes in what reason and science can tell him. Jafar doesn’t dream or believe in wishing. But once he meets Sherrezade he begins to understand the value of dreams. His wife is a story teller, she lives in a fantasy world where you have to suspend a certain amount of belief to be any good at telling convincing stories. She believes in tales of lost loves reuniting and hidden treasures. Most importantly though she believes in Jafar.

There is a very poignant moment after Sherrezade dies that Jafar sings some lines that really stick with you and wraps up how much Sherrezade has influenced Jafar. “Science says you’re dead and gone forever. Reason says I’m talking to the air. But something in my heart, some hidden part illogically says you are there,” (Starkid). These lines sum up the two’s relationship perfectly. Sherrezade shows Jafar what it means to love and that dreams and wishes aren’t completely useless. Meredith gives Sherrezade this breath of life, she makes the character innocent and completely lovable. You fall in love with her from the moment you meet her. She makes Sherrezade a character who absolutely loves Jafar, they are the perfect couple. We run a range of emotions with her character, from contentment to sadness to complete and utter joy.

The antagonist of this musical is Aladdin. Jeff Blim plays Aladdin and plays him so well that from the moment we meet him we hate him. Aladdin is a sex crazed jerk, who is crude and selfish. He has a very harsh tongue full of curses and sexual innuendo that makes you cringe sometimes. Aladdin only thinks about himself, will never do an honest days work in his life and is a complete coward. Jeff gives Aladdin a comedic edge that make you laugh and not completely turn away from the character that could get very irritating to watch otherwise. We want to see Aladdin get caught and imprisoned, we do not want him to win in any fashion. The writing in combination with Jeff’s portrayal do a fantastic job of making us hate a usually beloved character.

Rachel Soglin plays Jasmine, though they just call her Princess. The Princess is your typical teenager. She has highly romantic notions about life and love. She can’t see past herself and wants only what she believe is best. At first she is annoying at how shallow and child like she is but she quickly grows up. She sees Aladdin is nothing but a sleaze and that Jafar is actually someone she can trust and lean on. Rachel is new to Starkid and she did a fantastic job at playing the Princess. She really does a great job showing the slow growth of her character and making it all very believable. In the end you are proud at how far she has come and have complete faith in her ability to run the kingdom.

One of my favorite parts of this musical was the relationship between Jafar and the Princess. At first it is very much like a bratty teenager hating on anything their parent or guardian says and does, it is cliche and seen before yet refreshing at how real it seems. The dialog between them is fun and yet heart wrenching. Near the end when they finally connect for a short time it is heart warming. The Princess sees she has had a father this whole time and realizes that because of Jafar she has the ability to run her home the right way.

Matt and Nick Lang as well as Eric Kahn Gale wrote the script for this musical. Matt and Nick have had a hand in writing every Starkid show up to this point. I loved this script. The dialogue was perfect, incorporating so many Disney lines and themes. It flowed from start to finish keeping you interested and making you smile each time you caught a reference or a joke. The musical stays faithful to being a Disney parody while also being deep and poignant. The seamless way they incorporated so many different lines without making anything feel forced is why I love watching these shows. Everything moves so easily and smoothly, that you are captivated from start to finish.

There were a number of songs and scenes I loved. One of my favorites was the scene with the song “Take Off Your Clothes”. I laughed so hard from start to finish of this song. If you don’t get the joke, it is said that in the original recordings of Aladdin during the scene where Aladdin is convincing Jasmine to go with him on the carpet he whispers “take off your clothes”. The song continually makes references the other supposed hidden sexual messages throughout Disney movies. They have Aladdin use subliminal messaging to try and convince the princess to sleep with him. They effortlessly incorporate this whole bit with this one idea. All the references are perfect and entertaining.

The Princes’s character is shown to grow in this moment as well. She refuses to see what Aladdin sees. She constantly points out what is really going on from seeing SFX and not Sex to pointing out that is is actually just the priest’s knee. They do a great job of showing how much like Jafar the Princess is. She is not a naive child and she won’t pretend to see what isn’t there. She sees the reality and understands what is truly going on. She can and will think for herself whenever the occasion calls for it.

The quintessential love song is “A Thousand and One Nights”. This ballad is soft and carries you away. It is extremely beautiful and heart warming. You can feel the love that Jafar and Sherrezade have for each other as they sing. The lyrics are a beautiful way to illustrate the connection these two share. The way they build the whole thing around telling one another’s story and continuing their stories with each other, of course, appealed to me. It is an idea I can see, and feel completely connected to.

The best song and scene of the whole show was the title song “Twisted”. Jafar is trying to decide between running and hiding and saving himself or saving his home and risking his life. He asks a very important question, does it matter? His story is going to be the same either way. He is going to end up the villain no matter what way he chooses. His story is going to be twisted around and turned to make him the one who chooses selfishly no matter what he really does. As he is trying to determine what his choice should be he gets some advice from other Disney villains.

This is a great moment. It shows just how detailed oriented and how much they know about Disney. This moment really exemplifies how they are able to see stories that we all know from a variety of different points of views.The villains all get to tell their sides of the stories. Ursula just wanted what was rightly hers. Scar wanted equality among the pride. Gaston just wanted love and Malificent just wanted to be invited to the party. They show Jafar that because they were the ones on the outside their stories got twisted. They got twisted around by the heroes but they aren’t the real bad guys. They are just the ones who lost and their stories were not the ones the victors wanted to tell.

Jafar decides that if he is going to be hated then so be it. He doesn’t care because he will know what he did and why. It only matters what happens in the end. His story will get twisted but he still wants to save his home. This moment was brilliant. Showing us there are two sides to every story, we have to see that those we call villains are just the ones who lost and who did not get their real stories told.

Starkid shows make you laugh, cry and sing out loud. They know exactly how to make a parody show anyone can and will love. They are brilliant parody writers. If you love Disney in anyway you will enjoy this show. All the references and allusions are fantastic. The songs combine classic Disney and show tunes in reworked catchy genius ways. I enjoyed this so much and will definitely buy the DVD once I can. Starkid once again showed why they have such a dedicated following because they are extremely talented geniuses.

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Posted on December 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I disagree, we’ve had antagonists in other Starkid shows- although a notable trait of Starkid is to serve up varying degrees of pathos with every antagonist, even if it’s just as an aside. I think we saw that play out with Twisted as well. Aladdin was despicable, but his character did have a small measure of pathos (Spoiler: the reveal that he was actually pretty mentally ill). We didn’t need to see him fall off a cliff or a clock or get speared by the mast of a ship to find resolution. I really like Starkid’s reluctance to portray any (major) character as being ALL bad without reason, as Disney villains always tend to be.

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  2. I do agree with you partly. Aladdin was the only character I really could not stand, he was just so crude and a sleaze. But I got the point they were going after of hating the usual hero and loving the usual villain. I think if we had loved Aladdin at all it would have taken away from the whole idea of telling the story from a different point of view.
    I can see a certain amount of disappointment in not loving every character like we always do but it was nice to see a bit of a different take and idea from them as well. But I do understand where you are coming from though.

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  3. I really really really loved ‘A Thousand And One Nights’. That song was just so cute and perfect and Dylan & Meredith’s voices were fab. ❤
    Overall, I though Twisted was good, but not their best. Maybe it's because I wasn't a Disney kid so I didn't catch a lot of the references, but also I think it's because the characters weren't all lovable. Let's compare to AVPM/S/SY and Starship. In the Potter musicals, everyone was lovable or at least likeable. Even Umbridge who was made to be hated was liked. And in Starship, there wasn't a member of that team who we didn't like…even Specs got a lot of love. I'll even compare it to Little White Lie: I liked both Tanya and Sami even though we were made to dislike Tanya and be annoyed with Sami. With Twisted, it didn't feel the same because I didn't love Aladdin or Jasmine. The only two characters who I liked were Jafar and Sherrazade. :S
    Don't get me wrong, I liked Twisted and am super proud of Starkid, but I just don't think it was their best.

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