PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Members of Team StarKid Pick Their Favorite Songs by Disney Villains
By Michael Gioia
YouTube sensation Team StarKid presents Twisted in Concert, an abridged version of Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier — an original musical comedy parody from the creative team behind A Very Potter Musical — March 17 at 54 Below. In celebration of the concert, members of the cast and creative team pick their favorite songs by Disney villains as part of this week's Playbill Playlist.
Twisted, according to StarKid, "is a retelling of Aladdin from the villain's point of view." The musical enjoyed a sold-out run in Chicago last July, has garnered nearly half a million views on YouTube and made the iTunes charts with the release of its cast album.
Concerts are offered at 7 PM and 11:30 PM.
Robert W. Schneider directs the concerts, featuring a score by A.J. Holmes and Kaley McMahon and a book by Matt Lang, Nick Lang and Eric Kahn Gale. Music direction is by Justin Fischer, and orchestrations are by Andrew Fox.
The cast includes composer Holmes as the titular royal vizier, Andrea Ross, Holly Grossman, Rebecca Spigelman, George Salazar and StarKid veterans Tyler Brunsman and Jeff Blim, who appeared in the Chicago production and reprises his role as Aladdin.
Members from the production blogged exclusively for Playbill.com this summer. Click here for the first blog from lyricist Kaley McMahon, here for the second blog from new company member Robert Manion and here for the third blog from actor Dylan Saunders.
Formed at the University of Michigan in 2009, StarKid represents an ensemble of writers, directors, actors and designers. Now based in Chicago, StarKid has garnered over 150 million views and 329,000 subscribers on YouTube; 200,000 Facebook fans; and over 132,000 Twitter followers worldwide. The team has had its albums chart on iTunes and Billboard.
Their musicals include A Very Potter Musical, Me and My Dick, A Very Potter Sequel, Starship, Holy Musical B@man and Second City's Airport For Birds.
54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. There is a $30-$45 cover charge plus a $25 food and beverage minimum. For more information and tickets, visit 54Below.com.
Kaley McMahon (lyricist): "Hellfire" (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"). Judge Claude Frollo is easily the scariest — and most psychologically complex — Disney villain of all time. Other villains tend to be more (forgive the term) cartoonish, rubbing their hands and cackling in gleeful celebration of their own evil, but such over-the-top malice can't hold a candle to Frollo's unshakable conviction in his own righteousness. His tortured soliloquy "Hellfire" gives us chilling insight into the way he twists the truth and paints himself as a victim.
Kaley McMahon (lyricist): "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (from "The Little Mermaid"). Ursula's masterful, musical manipulation of our naive heroine is perfection. Dripping with dark, subtle humor and blatantly anti-feminist messages that I wish weren't (still) so accurate ("It's she who holds her tongue who gets her man") and set to a fun, sexy vamp in a key that even I can sing along with, what's not to love?
Justin Fischer (music director): "Hellfire" (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"). How can you not be simultaneously impressed and creeped out by Disney taking it to such a dark, sexy/tortured place?
Rob Schneider (director): "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (from "The Little Mermaid"). Four words: Pat Carroll as Ursula. I just wish she would have encored "Poor Unfortunate Souls" when I saw her do Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein in Los Angeles.
Rebecca Spigelman (cast): "Snuff Out the Light" (from "The Emperor's New Groove"). This movie has terrific music! Lots of jazz influences. Yzma is a delicious combination of sexy and scary, which is kind of what Eartha Kitt did so brilliantly.
Rebecca Spigelman (cast): "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (from "The Little Mermaid"). Ursula taught me everything I know about being a woman…"It's she who holds her tongue who gets a man" is a truth I apply to my everyday life. And of course, body language.
Tyler Brunsman (cast): "Mad Madam Mim" (from "The Sword in the Stone"). It still creeps me the f*#& out. That old bag is terrifying.
Tyler Brunsman (cast): "Snuff Out the Light" (from "The Emperor's New Groove"). Eartha Kitt. Need I explain more?
George Salazar (cast): "Be Prepared" (from "The Lion King"). "The Lion King" was my favorite Disney movie growing up. I remember watching it at least three times a week. "Be Prepared" was such a dark moment in the film, and Jeremy Irons' voice creeped me out as a child. The perfect animated villain!
George Salazar (cast): "Cruella De Vil" (from "101 Dalmatians"). She was just such a rich, evil biatch. The ultimate GAUNT villain. I mean, who walks into someone's house smoking a cigarette? So rude! I also love that the song isn't even sung by her. It's like she couldn't be bothered.
Jeff Blim (cast): "Be Prepared" (from "The Lion King"). Jeremy Irons. 'Nuff said. The dude blew out his vocal chords for it. Oh, and it's pretty damn catchy.
Jeff Blim (cast): "Prince Ali (Reprise)" (from "Aladdin"). When I was researching this I was reminded of how disturbed I was by a lot of the villain songs, and that's probably why I never caught myself singing them in the shower… Because they were real. And really, really evil. But looking back on it now, I'd have to say my favorite is Jafar's "Prince Ali," not just because of my rekindled love for Aladdin, but also because Jafar goes full Steven Tyler at the very end. And, I love a good sarcastic reprise.
Holly Grossman (cast): "Be Prepared" (from "The Lion King"). I remember rewinding this song on my Lion King VHS a zillion times as a kid… The hyenas cracked me up. Also — Jeremy Irons.
Holly Grossman (cast): "Mine, Mine, Mine" (from "Pocahontas"). Governor Ratcliffe is just so shameless, and his sparkly gold cape is truly outstanding.
Andrew Fox (orchestrator): "The Siamese Cat Song" (from "Lady and the Tramp"). Unusually sparse arrangement for Disney — fantastic groove, and those marvelous planing harmonies from Peggy Lee (unfortunate stereotyping notwithstanding). Usually Disney villains go big or go home; these two cats sing a very static, mostly two-chord song that ends up representing them as coolly indestructible.
Also, "The Siamese Cat Song" by Bobby McFerrin, off of 1991's Simply Mad About the Mouse… This is awesome in every single way, a total psychedelic trip of an arrangement.
Andrew Fox (orchestrator): "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" (by LL Cool J off of 1991's "Simply Mad About the Mouse," originally from "The Three Little Pigs"). LL Cool J deserves credit if, for nothing else, delivering those hilariously toothless lyrics with an actual air of sexual menace. Also, the backing beat is pretty great, with an excellent use of the "Billie Jean" synth line in the female vocals.
Andrew Fox (orchestrator): "Hellfire" (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"). A most unusual Disney song. Their villains are typically knowingly evil and selfish, and to see a deeply religious hypocrite and lech playing it straight as he imagines himself tormented by Satan is kind of badass. But that's what happens when you get Stephen Schwartz on lyrics — he gives villains humanity like nobody's business.
A.J. Holmes (composer): "Gaston" (from "Beauty and the Beast"). An incredibly infectious melody filled with hilarious and unexpected lyrics that get better and better as the song goes on. Gaston's interjections are my favorite - "I'm especially good at expectorating!" and "I use antlers in all of my decorating!"
A.J. Holmes (composer): "Savages" (from "Pocahontas"). A clear depiction of the nature of intolerance, a beautifully scored interpolated scene, and an epic final sequence in which Pocahontas brings back musical themes from the entire score. Everything is on the line and the stakes couldn't be higher. So awesomely intense.
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