Studio 111 prepares a blockbuster Disney musical

Reheasing for Studio 111’s presentation of “The Descendants” last were were, from left, Maddy Mindeman, Lauren Wiscombe, Kentlee Razcon, Vivian Amern and Paige. (David Minton/AFN Staff Photographer)  

Disney Channel’s “The Descendants” – complete with their danceable, sing-along hit songs – will be presented on stage by an enthusiastic and talented group of young actors, singers and dancers on June 25 courtesy of Studio 111 Theater Company, a division of Ahwatukee’s Dance Studio 111.

It’s Dance Studio 111’s first summer musical since being shut down by the pandemic for two years.

“Our last full staged production was ‘Frozen’ in 2019, and we’re so happy to finally be back,” enthused Kimberly Lewis, the show’s producer and founder of Dance Studio 111, 4910 E. Chandler Blvd.

Tickets for the 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. performances at the Madison Center for the Arts, 5601 N. 16th St., Phoenix, are currently available at DanceStudio111.com under the Theater section. “Disney’s Descendants: The Musical” features the characters in the films.

Seth Davis, a student at Mountain View High School, travels from Mesa every day for his role as Jay, one of four teen troublemakers, the children of some of Disney’s greatest villains. They leave the Isle of the Lost to enter Auradon Prep in the United States of Auradon.

Jay is the son of Jafar, the villain in Disney’s 1992 movie “Aladdin.” Jafar is played by Brennan Wiscombe, a freshman at Brophy College Preparatory.

This is Seth’s first leading role, and indeed his first onstage appearance.

“I think playing this role takes a lot of focus; playing Jay you really have to nail the acting,” said Davis. “I don’t have long hair like the character in the movie and I could have worn a wig but I chose not to because I thought I could change the look. I will be mean, rough and definitely ‘Rotten to the Core’ though not as crazy as he is, and there’ll still be a Tourney (cq) team.”

Getting Davis to the musical’s five rehearsals a week is a task for single mother Simone Davis of Mesa, but one she willingly undertook.

“Seth is my oldest child of five and I want him to be able to live up to his full potential, so if that means driving him 27 miles one way to practice everyday, then that is what I”m going to do,” said his mother, Simone Davis. “We came into this thinking we didn’t have a chance because he didn’t have any experience. Yet, as a single mom, I believe in my children’s futures. No matter the distance or cost. We were excited when he got the role of Jay.”

Another newcomer to the Studio 111 Theater troupe is Evan Sanchez who owns the role of Ben, son of Belle - played by Drue Haro who enters Grand Canyon University this fall, and the Beast played by Phillip Hansen of Seton Catholic High school

who is king of Auradon, and who proclaims four teens can leave the villain’s island prison to enter Auradon Prep.

Sanchez, 16, enters his senior year at Seton Catholic Preparatory where he has performed on stage throughout his high school years - except during COVID. This is his first time with Studio 111.

“As for Ben, I like that my character is intelligent, protective - as I am of my baby sister Maddie, and loyal, as I am to my girlfriend,Drue, who plays my Mother, Belle, in this musical,” he smiled. “Ben is confident which I believe is a great trait of mine, and he doesn’t settle which is another trait I believe to be a good quality. My character is brave and is not afraid of change. I feel I am a similar person to Ben in real life,” he said. “I don’t run around singing and dancing, but maybe I should try it !”

Stella Parsons, 14, plays Mal, the daughter of Maleficent - the protagonist of Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and later the title character in two films.

An actor and singer since age four, Parsons - who lives in North Scottsdale, will be a freshman at Notre Dame Prep. She has done more than 10 productions valley-wide. An alumni of Broadway Artists Alliance in NYC where she studied musical theater including acting, singing and dance, this is her first production with Studio 111 Theater Company.

“I’m so honored to be cast as Mal in Descendants. It has been lots of fun! I most enjoy the wonderful cast and friendships I’m making with these super talented actors,” she said. “There are intricate dances that are challenging but fun to learn! I also love the musical score, all the songs are super catchy and it’s a fun experience to rock out on stage. Plus, who doesn’t love Purple Hair ?”

Maleficent is played by Briarley Crandall, 18, a sophomore at Eastern Arizona College who said this is her first big role.

“I’m super excited to be playing Maleficent in this production and I hope I can do her character justice. I’m especially excited to embrace the sassy, evil personality of Maleficent.”

“I love my cast members! They are all super talented! I love watching them get into their characters and giving them a unique feel, and I am so honored to be in this production with them.”

The high-energy songs and teen focus of Disney’s Descendants: The Musical appeals to the 45 members of the cast.

Altadena Middle seventh grader Sierra Ricks’ role as Evie has been fun for the Studio 111 Theater Company veteran who has been in dance classes at Dance Studio 111 since she was six.

“I really like Evie’s character because even though she is a villain she has a very kind and loving personality. I love all of the songs she sings, especially ‘Chillin’ Like a Villain’. My favorite part of the play is the finale, ‘Break This Down’ because it involves the whole cast, and is super fun to sing and dance to,” said Ricks, who is a Altadena varsity cheerleader, and is in their choir. “I love performing, and I hope to be a singer someday.”

The villain teen role of Carlos, the son of Cruella, is played by Eli Hernandez, a seventh grader at Altadena Middle School.

Hernandez, 12, is no stranger to the Studio 111 Theater Company having appeared in three prior summer musicals - Little Mermaid, Shrek, and Frozen.

He said he was delighted to win the role.

“Carlos is my favorite character in the movies, but I want to give my own spin to the character, not just copy the movie. Carlos has a lot of funny moments. He tries to act so tough but in reality, he’s not as tough as he seems.”

Performing onstage at the 940-seat Madison Center for the Arts auditorium is exciting for the actor.

“It’s going to feel different performing on a bigger stage but I’m excited to see the show come together in a new space, ‘’ he said.

While the cast members are excited about performing on the cavernous and state-of the art stage of Madison Center for the Arts, this musical’s producer and owner of Dance Studio, 111 Theater Company admittedly has trepidations about filling the 904 seats.

“We really want to get people to come to this show. We got hit really bad with Covid having to shut down our theater company for the past two years, so we’re starting all over trying to rebuild,” said Lewis, who has owned and operated Dance Studio 111 for 29 years. “We’re praying people come to support our theater company and see these talented children who have worked so hard; they need and deserve a big audience!”

Lewis said even though the licensed ‘Disney’s Descendants: The Musical’ offers only 22 characters, she was able to increase the number of the cast so that she could accommodate more actors and dancers who showed up at the audition.

“We wanted as many children as possible to be involved in this fun show,” she said. “And can you believe we put this entire show together in three weeks? Our cast met the first three weeks of June every Monday to Friday from 2:30-6:30 p.m, so yes, these are very dedicated children and teens.”

Lewis lauds the adult and teen crew members including DVHS incoming sophomore Maddy Mindeman (cq) who is Dance Captain for the high-energy production.

Jenefer Miller is the Director of this year’s musical with Rachal (cq) Bautista (cq) serving as Musical Director. Lewis’ daughter Avery Lewis is choreographer, and Audrey Williams is Assistant Director.

Besides producing. Kimberly Lewis coordinates costumes, accessories while overseeing make-up and props.

TICKETS are the two shows, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., are available by clicking on Theater on the DanceStudio111.com website, or at TheMadison.org.

Madison Center for the Arts is located at 5601 N. 16th Street, Phoenix. Free parking is available in the newly completed 375-covered stall parking structure located directly south of the facility by the Madison Promenade.

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