|The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier|
Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier poster
|Music||A. J. Holmes|
Eric Kahn Gale
by Walt Disney Animation Studios
|Premiere||July 4, 2013Greenhouse Theater Center, Chicago:|
The musical parodies the 1992 Walt Disney Animation Studios' film Aladdin, and The Walt Disney Company in general, telling the story from the point of view of Ja'far, the Royal Vizier. It has several nods and homages to the musical Wicked, which similarly retells a popular story from the villain's point of view.
Twisted opened in Chicago's Greenhouse Theatre on July 4 and closed on July 28 as part of a limited run. The group put the entire musical up on YouTube on November 27, 2013. It was produced by StarKid Productions and directed by Brian Holden. The musical's cast recording debuted at No. 63 on the American iTunes Top 100 albums chart.
Twisted is presented as an alternate history of the events of Aladdin: instead of being a scheming villain, Ja'far is a good-intentioned, hard-working official who wants what's best for the kingdom, but is nevertheless blamed for all the problems of society. The Princess is portrayed not as a heroine, but as an arrogant spoiled child who doesn't realize the potential consequences of humiliating a powerful foreign prince. Aladdin is lazy and immature, thieving because he does not want to work, and not caring about the victims of his crimes. Instead of taking place in Agrabah, the events unfold in "the Magic Kingdom", a euphemism for The Walt Disney Company and its financial struggles in the 1990s. The foreign kingdom of Pik-zahr is based on Pixar, the pioneer of 3-D animation. The story has allegorical references to the rivalry between the companies, which ended in 2006 when Disney bought out Pixar.
The play opens with Scheherazade introducing the Magic Kingdom, which once prospered because of "the 2-Ds": duty and devotion (a reference to Disney's traditional 2-D animation). Ja'far, the Royal Vizier, walks through the kingdom while conversing with the villagers ("Dream a Little Harder"). He is constantly harassed by the villagers, who blame him for all of their problems despite his attempts to solve the kingdom's socioeconomic inequality. The Captain of the Guard arrives and informs Ja'far of a thief terrorizing the populace. Several of his own guards were killed in pursuit of him when he stole a loaf of bread. However, Ja'far has to focus on keeping the peace with Pik-zahr; their prince, Achmed, is visiting and Ja'far hopes to extend the trade contract between their two kingdoms. The Captain reveals that the same thief who stole the loaf of bread, Aladdin, humiliated the Prince earlier that day in town. Worried, Ja'far rushes back to the palace in order to check on the Prince's breakfast with the Princess. Aladdin then appears, gloating that he lives by taking whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences or other people's needs ("I Steal Everything").
Ja'far returns to the palace but is greeted by an angry Prince Achmed, upon whom the Princess has set her pet tiger. Insulted, Prince Achmed declares war on the Magic Kingdom. Although Ja'far berates the Princess for her actions and carelessness, the Princess only longs for freedom ("Everything and More").
To come up with a way to avoid war, Ja'far gathers his assistant viziers but discovers the department has been disbanded and its members killed. Disappointed and furious at the Sultan's choice to execute such talented people, Ja'far takes out his anger on the decorations in the room. Amidst the chaos, Ja'far finds a golden necklace ("Sands of Time"). In a flashback, years ago Ja'far is loved by the village and teaches them lessons on how to be kind to one another by treating others as they wish to be treated ("The Golden Rule"). On his first day on the job as the new Assistant Royal Vizier, Ja'far discovers that the Royal Vizier and his court are corrupt and only care about money ("The Golden Rule (Evil Reprise)").
Though disheartened by the amount of corruption in the palace, Ja'far's mood is lifted when he meets Scheherazade, a storyteller and palace entertainer who has just had her ear cut off by one of her masters. As Jafar stitches the wound, Scheherazade tells Ja'far of the story of the Tiger Head Cave and shows him her half of a golden scarab necklace which, when combined with the other half, will reveal the location of the hidden Tiger Head Cave. Though Ja'far is a man of facts and science, he is charmed by Scheherazade's wisdom and beauty. As Ja'far and Scheherazade get to know each other, they fall in love and marry ("A Thousand and One Nights"). A few years later, Ja'far continues to struggle against the corruption and incompetence of the palace, but one day Scheherazade announces that she is pregnant. Ja'far is overjoyed, especially since the couple has been trying for some time to conceive. Suddenly, a guard informs Ja'far that his request to meet with the Sultan has been granted and he is to report to the palace immediately.
When Ja'far takes Scheherazade with him to his meeting with the Sultan, the Sultan is attracted to Scheherazade and claims her as his wife. Ja'far protests and is beaten down by the guards. Scheherazade reminds Ja'far that he will be a great Vizier someday, and to never stop believing. She gives him her scarab necklace and vows that they will be reunited one day, before she is taken away to the Sultan's harem. Back in the present, Ja'far mourns over losing Scheherazade, first to the Sultan and later "to heaven". Despondent, Ja'far decides to seek out the wish-granting Djinn that dwells within the Tiger Head Cave, and change his fate and the fate of the kingdom ("If I Believed").
The Captain suddenly arrives and informs Ja'far that the Princess has run away. The Princess meets Aladdin and is entranced by his lack of concern for royal power and his freedom, although she is oblivious to his sexual advances. He then talks about his past, and how he recently became an orphan ("Orphaned At Thirty-Three"). Before they can kiss, they are caught by the royal guards, who throw Aladdin in prison and take the Princess home.
Meanwhile, Ja'far retrieves the other half of the golden scarab from a corrupt merchant. He bails Aladdin out of jail to go to the Tiger Head Cave and retrieve the Djinn's lamp, during which Aladdin reveals his true intentions: he doesn't love the Princess nor had any reason to rule the kingdom, he just wants to sleep with her. The Princess, Aladdin, and Ja'far all reflect on what they want most: a happy ending ("Happy Ending"). As Aladdin exits the Tiger Head Cave, he decides to take the Djinn's lamp for himself.
Prince Achmed returns to his kingdom to commiserate over his humiliation at the hands of the Princess. He is further embarrassed when his guards see the scars on his butt from the tiger attack and assume he had sex with a tiger, earning him the nickname "tiger fucker". Achmed prepares his army and despairs that he will only be remembered as a "throwaway joke" despite his soldiers insisting that they care about him and that he is special ("No One Remembers Achmed"). He appears to have feelings for the Princess, but mistakenly believes that destroying her kingdom will make her love him.
Back in the Magic Kingdom, Ja'far and the Princess have a heart-to-heart, during which Ja'far warns her about Aladdin and how people like him are only interested in one thing. Ja'far tries to teach the Princess responsibility, but she insists she could run the kingdom already. When asked how she would fix the socioeconomic inequality, she declares that everyone should be a princess, so that everyone would be happy and treated with respect. Ja'far dismisses this idea, saying she will learn how it is simply a dream. He then continues to warn her about Aladdin and all princes, warning that if they begin serenading her, "a song is a dick in sheep's clothing". The Captain interrupts and tells them that a parade is unexpectedly taking place in the market, led by a mysterious visiting prince; Ja'far speculates that it could be Aladdin. As they leave, Aladdin visits the Princess, who sees through his disguise immediately and happily embraces him. He momentarily breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience how he plans to get the Princess into bed with him -- by planting not-so-subtle subliminal messages in their conversation. Now suspicious, The Princess also breaks the fourth wall to ask the audience if Ja'far was right about Aladdin, only for an unhelpful audience member to assure her otherwise. Aladdin takes the Princess on a magic carpet ride where he tries to convince her to ("Take Off Your Clothes"), but is unsuccessful. The Princess, thinking that Aladdin's wealth and power could be what the kingdom needs to defeat Prince Achmed, asks him to marry her; he reluctantly agrees.
Ja'far consults with the Sultan, who confirms that Aladdin will marry the Princess and he will bring his armies to defend them from Prince Achmed's forces. Ja'far tries to expose Aladdin, but Aladdin tricks everyone into thinking Ja'far is a sorcerer. Ja'far escapes and manages to take the lamp. Ja'far feels guilty for betraying his Sultan, but knows that he simply cannot stand by as the people of his kingdom suffer. His soliloquy is interrupted by the appearance of several villains from Scheherazade's tales, who claim that their stories have been twisted to the point where they are portrayed as villains. (Except for Cruella de Vil who is shunned even by them.) ("Twisted"). Ja'far then accepts that he has to take the "twisted" path, and decides to do the right thing for the kingdom even if it means being remembered as a villain.
When Prince Achmed's forces arrive the Princess calls for Aladdin's "army" to defend them, but Aladdin is nowhere to be seen. Ja'far then appears and uses his first wish on the lamp to make himself Sultan; he uses the second to make himself a powerful sorcerer. With his newfound powers, Ja'far is able to repel the majority of Achmed's army. During the battle, Aladdin tries to get the Princess to have sex with him, but she refuses. When Ja'far arrives, Aladdin takes the Princess hostage and reveals a darker, more sinister personality. This alternate persona killed Aladdin's parents when they wanted him to move out and get a job. Ja'far begs Aladdin to spare the Princess and realizes that the Princess is actually his daughter –- the Sultan is impotent and Scheherazade was pregnant when she was taken to the harem. Aladdin agrees to release the Princess in exchange for the lamp, but before Ja'far hands it over, he uses his final wish to free the Djinn and take its place in the lamp. The Djinn rejoices and disappears; Ja'far is now a Djinn.
Aladdin flees in terror as Ja'far revels in his new abilities. Ja'far reaffirms his loyalty to the Princess and hands her the lamp, believing her youth and passion make her the only one who can truly use the lamp's power to its fullest potential. The Princess is unsure if she can rule the kingdom and doesn't know what to do without Ja'far's guidance, but he assures her that she has the power to lead without him ("The Power In Me"). The Princess wishes to bring a peaceful end to the war with Pik-zahr, and for the kingdom to have a Sultan that will make it the happiest place on Earth once again. Finally, she wishes that Ja'far will not have to go, but he sadly tells her that there are some wishes he cannot grant. Instead, she wishes for Ja'far's every happiness; he and the lamp return to the Tiger Head Cave. Two of the Princess' servants then arrive with the Sultan's final declaration before his death: naming the Princess the new ruler of the Magic Kingdom. The Captain then reveals that Ali Baba's lost treasure was discovered during the battle. Achmed's troops arrive in the throne room, and the Princess offers to buy the entirety of Pik-zahr with Ali Baba's treasure. She adds a condition that Pik-zahr send their best artisans and craftsmen to bring back "the 2-Ds"; Achmed agrees. For her next act as Sultan, the Princess declares that everyone is a princess, and the kingdom celebrates.
Ja'far, now trapped within the lamp forever, resigns himself to his fate when he is suddenly greeted by Scheherazade. Reincarnated as a result of the Princess' last wish, Scheherazade tells Ja'far that she can stay in the lamp with him forever. Because the inside of the lamp exists outside time and space (explaining how the Djinn was able to watch and quote movies centuries before they were made), Scheherazade can also look into the future. She reveals that the Princess brought about the third golden age of the Magic Kingdom and followed the Golden Rule by making everyone a princess. Additionally, Ja'far learns that Aladdin has an ignominious future where he becomes old and fat, making a living by selling second-hand goods and telling a twisted version of the previously seen story, until he is killed by a thief for a loaf of bread at age 55. Ja'far asks how their story ends, to which Scheherazade replies that it doesn't, and they kiss ("Finale / A Thousand And One Nights Reprise").
Cast and charactersEdit
|Character||Original Chicago Cast
|Feinstein's/54 Below |
|Ja'far||Dylan Saunders||A.J. Holmes|
|The Princess||Rachael Soglin||Andrea Ross|
|Scheherazade||Meredith Stepien||Rebecca Spigelman |
|Prince Achmed / Vizier||Joe Walker|
|Sultan / Djinn / Scar||Nick Gage|
|Captain / Guard||Jim Povolo|
|The Monkey / Maleficent / Guard||Lauren Lopez|
|Sea Witch / Belle||Jaime Lyn Beatty|
|The Bird / Cruella de Vil||Denise Donovan|
|Gaston / Guard||Robert Manion|
|Captain Hook||Alex Paul|
Besides Dylan Saunders and Rachael Soglin, every actor also played various characters as part of the ensemble.
The official video of the original production ends with a faux-pop remix of "A Thousand and One Nights" performed by StarKid contributors Carlos Valdes and Britney Coleman.
Twisted was funded entirely via a Kickstarter campaign launched by creators Matt Lang, Nick Lang, and Eric Kahn Gale. The campaign opened with a fundraising goal of $35,000 and ended up raising $142,564.
On March 17, 2014, the show was performed abridged in two sold-out concerts at 54 Below, with composer A. J. Holmes playing Ja'far and Andrea Ross playing the Princess. The production included an introduction by StarKid co-founder Darren Criss.
A cast recording of the production was released on November 28, 2013 on digital platforms. The recording included all songs except "A Song is a Dick in Sheep's Clothing," as well as two instrumental cues, "Sultan's Fanfare" and "The Scarab."
An EP of bonus studio recordings and demos entitled Twisted: Twisted was released on December 4, 2013. The album was produced by Andrew Fox, Michael Hart, and Stacks of Wax Productions, and featured Andrea Ross, Britney Coleman, Carlos Valdes, and Cluster. In addition to multiple demos, it also features a punk version of "Everything and More" performed by Andrea Moss, a cover of "The Golden Rule" performed by a cappella group Cluster, and Pop/R&B versions of "Take Off Your Clothes" and "A Thousand and One Nights."
Twisted received positive reviews.
On Hypable, Danielle Zimmerman called it "smart, lively, and just outright hilarious."
On IMDb, "Twisted" has a rating of 8.7/10.
- Gioia, Michael. "New Team StarKid Musical Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier Opens July 4 in Chicago". Playbill. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- "Starkid's "TWISTED" Tickets On Sale This Thursday!". PopWrapped!.
- "TWISTED – The Musical - Saved by passion and potent talent". www.theatreview.org.nz.
- "Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier". Retrieved April 18, 2014.
- "Twisted -- A New Starkid Musical". Kickstarter.
- "Twisted in Concert - Feinstein's/54 Below". Feinstein's/54 Below.
- "Starkid's 'Twisted' spoiler-free review • Hypable". 29 July 2013.
- "Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier". IMDb. Retrieved 25 November 2018.