Students at Columbus Middle School and Columbus High School are prepared to show all those who have ever wondered what Disney heroes’ and villains’ children have become in the musical, “Descendants.”
The musical follows four children of classic Disney villains — Maleficent, Jafar, Cruella DeVil and the Evil Queen — who are chosen to attend the prep school where the Disney heroes’ children attend. It is a musical based on the 2015 Disney Channel movie of the same name, and director and theater teacher at CMS Chelsea Petty said this was one of the reasons “Descendants” was chosen.
“I picked ‘Descendants’ because after COVID we lost a lot of our students from the drama program, and I picked a play that I knew a lot of our students were familiar with because of its Disney Channel popularity and because they’d enjoy being a part of it,” Petty said. “I was hoping it would bring a lot of students back into the theater program and help us rebuild after everything that happened with COVID. … We did a musical last year, and our ensemble had six kids in it, which is very, very small. This year we have an ensemble of 17, and it’s the most kids we’ve ever had within a play with the middle school and high school.”
By the end of the final performance today, the students will have performed in front of nine different crowds, including audiences of elementary students during the school day and of friends and family after school.
For some students, this will be their final performance before they graduate high school. Zachariah Harden is a senior at Columbus High School, and he has participated in plays since he was in fifth grade. Harden plays Ben, the son of Belle and Beast from “Beauty and the Beast,” and said he identifies with this role.
“I’ve worked with so many different people and experienced so many different things for the last seven to eight years that I’ve (performed), and it’s been amazing,” Harden said. “I love this role because I get to be a leader, but at the same time I get to kind of be goofy, which is a lot like my personality.”
When Harden graduates, he aspires to go to college to study music and theater, though he is not sure where he wants to go just yet.
CHS junior Gabrielle Benson plays the leading lady Mal, daughter of Maleficent who was the evil fairy in “Sleeping Beauty.” Benson has one more year ahead of her and has performed in 10 CMS plays during her schooling. She has enjoyed coming in, working with the cast and seeing the final product play out.
“It’s been very fun,” Benson said. “It’s been a journey because I’ve had to stay focused between the play and school and work. It’s kind of tough, but you gotta learn how to prioritize. My favorite part, though, is making new bonds with people. Some of the middle schoolers that are in the play are new, so it was my first time meeting them. It was nice to get to help them with things they don’t know just yet coming into the drama world.”
Though this will be the final play of the school year, Petty will be back with more for the next school year. Petty will write the fall play, and next spring CMS and CHS students will get the opportunity to participate in a musical called “Emma.”
“(It) is an updated version of ‘Emma,’ the novel by Jane Austen,” Petty said. “In a way it kind of feels like the ‘90s movie ‘Clueless.’ It’s a very girl-power, pop musical. … The year after next, we’re slated to do ‘Annie.’”
The final performance of “Descendants” will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbus Middle School auditorium, and tickets are $5.
“I hope everyone who can will come out and enjoy the production,” Benson said. “It’s a fun play for everyone.”