In present day Auradon, all is calm and normal as King Adam and Queen Belle prepare for the coronation of their son, Ben, who will soon become king. Ben, benevolent and generous, decides to offer four “misfit” children from the Isle of the Lost to go to school in Auradon in the hope that two lands can resolve their differences and become closer.
The Isle of the Lost is home to some of the most evil villains to ever grace Disney celluloid: Cruella De Vil, Maleficent, the Evil Queen and Jafar.
Their children, Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos, are forced to make a decision once they enroll in Auradon’s school: are they destined to perpetuate their parents’ evil, or is there another choice?
As a refresher for anyone unaware of their Disney villain history: Cruella De Vil is the Dalmatian-obsessed fashionista villain; Maleficent is a powerful fairy who turns malevolent after being abandoned by a lover who later becomes a king; Evil Queen, known by her friends as Grimhilde, grew incredibly jealous of Snow White’s charm and beauty and whose poison apple was no match for 7 minors and a prince’s kiss; and then there is the cobra-like Jafar, tall, thin and dressed in red, who discovered that greed and the desire for wealth were no match for a wise genius and his riding master on a magic carpet.
The king and queen of Auradon are Belle and her “maned” man, the richly combed and refined Beast, who we now know as “Adam”.
As for Mal, played by golden-voiced EFHS senior Giana Lerini, and Prince Ben, played by whimsical EFHS junior Moogie Fawaz, their paths intertwine as they make choices that could affect the rest of their life.
Lerini’s younger sister, Gioia, portrays Maleficent with a wickedly evil nature more often reserved for movies than a high school musical.
“She’s a bad villain. She’s kind of toned down because it’s been years since her ‘villain fame.’ She’s trying to get back to Auradon and be as evil as before,” explains Gioia.
The Edsel Ford High School Performing Arts Department’s “Disney Descendants” production is a showcase of the students’ exceptional talent, from mentoring actors and actresses to choreographing dance numbers.
Robert Doyle, director of choral and theater activities at EFHS, enjoys watching students not only from high school, but also from several elementary and middle schools coalesce into a cohesive group that adds life and energy to the storyline. .
Doyle directs the play.
“There’s nothing more satisfying for a theater educator than watching students discover talents and skills within themselves and begin to discover how much they have inside of them,” Doyle said.
Some of that credit has to go to Giana Lerini, who not only stars in the piece, but also helps teach the song and the dancers and works the lines with her fellow comedians.
“Giana has really established herself as a leader and artist. It’s very much the equivalent of a senior project, and she really rose to the occasion,” Doyle said.
Lerini has a self-proclaimed passion for “Descendants”. She calls it an “obsession.”
She enjoys the experience of being able to direct the cast as she finds it helps her identify with her character, Mal. In the play, Mal is the leader of her friend group and Giana also feels like the leader of her friend group. She counts the entire cast as her group of friends, and they all support each other.
Mal’s love interest in the play is Ben, who will soon be crowned king. It’s not love at first sight, but rather love at first sight that makes Ben fall in love with Mal.
“Mal gives me a love potion, which ends up making me fall in love with her obviously, but even after that spell wears off, I still have that love for Mal. And that propels me and Mal , to become on the side of good,” said Mohammad “Moogie” Fawaz, who plays Ben.
Moogie is a “veteran” on the Dearborn theater circuit having performed in at least a dozen plays since attending Whitmore-Bolles Elementary School.
He previously played “Roger” in the EFHS Theater production of “Noises Off”. He said that as an actor, he really enjoyed being that character of another actor. “He was very funny and yet very adamant about what he was doing as an up-and-coming actor, and I really enjoyed that role.”
Moogie said that in his role as Ben, he was most excited about his rendition of the show’s title track, “Better Together.”
Moogie said he found a connection playing Ben, as an underlying theme of the play is how people from different backgrounds can all become friends once they learn to accept each other. Moogie said he made a lot of friendships in the theater program.
“As king, Ben wants to combine the two realms of Auradon – which is the home of all princes and princesses and kings and queens – with the Isle of the Lost, who are the outcasts and misfits of the Magic Kingdom”, Moogie explains everything while deceptively trying not to give away the plot.
“Throughout the show, I try to keep the peace between the two groups, but tensions rise as the misfits on the Isle of the Lost all have alternate motives”
It wouldn’t be theater without some sort of behind-the-scenes drama as well. This year’s show has had to contend with technical issues that are being worked on by a group of volunteer parents, many of whom are members of Club Crescendo.
“Our parents and Club Crescendo have led the way in offering their time, talent and treasure to benefit our students,” Doyle said proudly. “It’s always a huge opportunity to bond with parents when they get directly involved in our productions. The value of their commitment and involvement is invaluable.
While her younger sister, Gioia, still has two years at the Edsel, Giana has the ambition to stay in the theater. She hopes to be able to attend Wayne State University in the fall of 2022 where she plans to study musical theater.
Gioia began to develop an interest in finding a career in Michigan’s growing film industry as a costume designer or in the lighting department.
Moogie, who will be graduating in the Class of 2023, hasn’t quite decided what direction he’ll take after high school, but he too has an interest in attending Wayne State University and possibly studying acting.
The ensemble cast, representing both the Isle of the Lost and the Auradoians, is made up of high school, elementary, and middle school students. They are: Maria Baker, Alana Carter, Chastity Cannizzaro, Keira Catris, Olivia Draus, Jordan Garner, Donna Khalil, Zachary Miller, Lauren Skidmore, Natalie Attard, Myrna Burkhalter, Amelia Danyliw, Lillie Hart, Caroline Kuentz, Victoria Lamb. Lydia Rouleau, Quinn Rouleau and Melani Zarate.
Performances will take place April 28-30 in the auditorium at Edsel Ford High School. Adult tickets are $12 and student and senior tickets are $10. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.