Managing Editor & Lead Events Editor
Managing Editor & Lead Events Editor
Team Starkid has definitely stepped up their game. Their seventh full length musical, Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, opened on July 4, and is easily their most theatrical production thus far. Twisted is the story of Jafar, yes, the villain from Aladdin; but it’s the untold story, the version you haven’t heard. The show is a tight two and a half hours, including a fifteen minute intermission, and it brings you on the journey with Jafar, how he came to be the Royal Vizier and his struggle with the treacherous thief, Aladdin. By the end of the show, you will honestly be sympathizing with Jafar, the man you grew up believing was an evil, power hungry monster.
Not only is Twisted reminiscent of Wicked and obviously, Aladdin, it is a brilliant parody of all things Disney. Written by Nick Lang, Matt Lang & Eric Kahn Gale, the number of obscure Disney references that Starkid has thrown into this show is amazing. Regular Starkid players are taking on roles we have not yet seen from them, and the new cast members fit in effortlessly. Hats off to the ridiculously talented AJ Holmes, the music is definitely on par with the types of shows that have homes on Broadway. A special shout out to Kaley McMahon, who was the lyricist for Twisted. Her lyrics were smart, funny, fit the characters, and incorporated lots of subtle/inside Disney jokes.
Fans going into this believing that it’s “just the reverse of Aladdin” are in for a surprise. There are throwbacks to several Disney movies (mostly from the “Renaissance Period”), but it goes deeper than that. The deeper plot actually has very little to do with Aladdin and is more of a commentary on the Walt Disney Pictures as a whole.
The songs are infectious, they will get stuck in your head and then you will be crying for the soundtrack to be released just as badly as we are. Several songs are notably reminiscent of “One Jump Ahead” and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin; “Little Town” from Beauty and the Beast; “No Good Deed” and “The Wizard and I” from Wicked, and so many more.
Dylan Saunders delivers a solid performance, one that many long-time fans have been itching to see. New fans will appreciate it as well, but it’s been a long time coming and it was well worth the wait. He SHINES in this production, finally given a role that lets him show his entire breadth of talent. He shows his amazing comedic timing, the depth of his emotional acting and the amazing vocal range he has developed. Cannot wait for his album & role in Judas!
Jeff Blim’s role is also one that will raise a few eyebrows, but he pulls it off. Since being the breakout star of Holy Musical Batman as ‘Sweet Tooth’ Jeff has stolen the hearts of Starkid fans everywhere. The twist at the end (sorry for the vagueness) is so shocking and you sit there and watch him thinking, “How the hell is he actually pulling this off?” It’s because he’s Jeff Blim and he’s phenomenal at his job. Next up, we’d like to see if he could do something deeper and more dramatic too.
Joseph Walker’s performance is a new one for him; he’s not necessarily the eye candy or the antagonist. He plays a role that is new and definitely steals the show in a lot of ways. It is fun to see him stretch his talents and share new sides of himself.
Robert Manion, Alex Grace Paul, Rachael Soglin, and Nick Gage all fit into the mix as if they’ve been there all along. Rachel’s comedic timing is brilliant; her facial expressions are perfect. Alex’s voice is angelic; she sounds like a Disney Princess. While we’ve seen and heard Nick Gage’s musical talents, his comedy skills were a well-kept secret. He delivers some of the funniest lines in the show. Robert is easily one of the greatest things to have come out of Starkid fandom. He came to the company from the AVPSY competition last year and has effortlessly acclimated to going from fan to member of Starkid – his performance is mind-blowing.
Rachael Soglin is one of the ‘newcomers’ to Starkid (she has known everyone since university) and her role in Twisted lets her showcase what she has in terms of her talent amazingly. Her voice and personality lend themselves perfectly to her role and makes you annoyed yet impressed at the same time; think Sharpay Evans from High School Musical.
Meredith Stepien has worked her way into being an integral part of the female half of TSK showing off her big voice and using her stand-up comedy chops in her role in Twisted. Granted, her role in this show may be smaller than a Hermione-type role, but she is very important to understanding the emotions behind Jafar’s actions. Plus, we get to hear her duet again with one of our favourites!
Jim Povolo has always been the Starkid with the novelty of having that deep voice and towering presence on stage. In Twisted Jim gets to play a pair of roles that give him a lot of stage time and opportunity to show off his improvement. He dishes out these funny lines and even gets in some singing and dancing. What we found appealing about Jim is his personality off stage. He has to be one of the most adorable and humble of the Starkids. He accepted all praise/love with the sweetest attitude and loved meeting fans.
Commentary on Jaime Lyn Beatty, Denise Donovan, and Lauren Lopez feels necessary but would possibly give away elements of the story/casting, and that’s not something that we at Popwrapped are interested in doing. They all do a solid job; one of the roles Jaime takes on in particular will leave audience members speechless.
Brian Holden’s directorial debut shows a promising path if he continues down that road. The show is impressive and he definitely deserves credit for that. He admits that he had a lot of help from the seasoned directors in the Starkid camp, but his hard work should be recognized and noted.
Starkid’s resident costume master June Saito truly outdid herself this time around. The costumes fit into the Disney Middle Eastern vibe with bright colours and recognizable pieces. The shoes really stood out to us for some reason as they all look specially made for this production. There is a group of costumes in the Second Act that we wish we could gush about in detail but that would just be far too spoilery! Let’s just say they are almost spot on recreations of the originals and the people who get to wear them embodied them so well, especially Jamie Lyn.
Like the Kickstarter said, if Team Starkid raised enough money, there would be puppets, and boy did this pair of puppets deliver (although the one kind of creeped us out with its crazy smile).
The set and props overall were pretty minimal but the magic of a Starkid show is that the group has never needed a lot of that stuff to make their shows amazing. The set was designed by Jama Mcmahon & Emily Thomas and captures the essence of the Twisted world without needing to be changed out over and over at each new ‘location.’
Sarah Petty did the lighting design for the production and worked her magic for sure. The Greenhouse Theatre is not large by any means but the lighting design helps you forget that and imagine that these characters are in a different place altogether. And given that this show includes characters consistently entering the stage from the audience, this adds a new dimension to the lighting design that could have proven tricky but the integration of it all is pretty seamless.
Overall, we cannot say enough about Twisted and the calibre of work that Team Starkid has delivered on this outing. If you are lucky enough to have tickets for the run, you are definitely in for a treat!