McKay thespians give a nod to Disney villains in “Descendants”

Tiffany Carstensen has always identified with Disney villains.

The Evil Queen from Snow White is a favorite, as is Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

“They’re just so graceful and elegant and just go after what they want,” she said.

So the McKay High School theater teacher is particularly excited about her students’ latest production: a stage adaptation of the Disney movie “Descendants,” which follows the lives of villain’s children as they head to boarding school.

“We all have a little bit of hero and villain in all of us, and to be all-hero has some really high expectations,” Carstensen said. “I think the villains let us relate in places that perhaps according to the rules of society would not be appropriate so we kind of get to live vicariously through them.”

The show is put on by a cast and crew of about 50 students who have been working all semester.

It opens Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m., with shows on Jan. 21, 22, 26 and 28 at 7 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Jan. 28.

The musical is based on a series of Disney channel movies which debuted in 2015 that Carstensen described as “High School Musical but for villains.”

The play adaptation came out just before the pandemic, and Carstensen said it’s been popular among students.

“Pretty much anybody that’s between the age of 8 and 22 is gonna know the show if they were Disney fans,” she said. Many in her class already knew the music, making it an easy selection for the school’s theater program.

The plot follows Mal, daughter of Maleficent, and her three friends as they transfer to Auradon Prep, a school for the children of Disney heroes.

“They’re who they are, they don’t quite fit the mold of the typical hero child, they’re causing a little trouble,” Carstensen said of the plot.

McKay will be the first school in Oregon to perform the play, which is kid-friendly.Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online in advance, or at the door a half hour before each show. Shows are at the school’s theater, 2440 Lancaster Dr. N.E.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.