Twilight: The Musical Is Hilarious And Criticizes Bella Swan — What’s Not To Love?

Earlier this week, we got to attend the staged reading of Twilight: The Musical, a fan-run parody of Stephenie Meyer‘s worldwide phenomenon. The project, which has been several years in the making, doesn’t just poke fun at the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle, but it also brings in Harry Potter characters for a commentary on popular YA books and what makes a compelling heroine.

Let me start by saying that this is a sharp, funny show populated with talented singers and dancers. Writer Ashley Griffin and her collaborators obviously know the series backwards and forwards, as the dialogue and songs especially are peppered with sly puns and references to obscure moments from the books. Yet it strikes the right balance by not alienating newbies… although let’s face it, nearly everyone at the reading must have been a genuine fan.

The musical was a success financially, as well: The one-night performance — plus the after party at Bar West End Grille with DJ Twist overseeing music – managed to raise over $3,000 for the charity Blessings In A Backpack!

We learned that while this musical has been in the works for several years, some of what we were seeing was completely new material thought up in the prior 24 hours of rehearsal. In addition to the eight actors — who winningly endured costume and wig changes to portray three times as many characters — there were five dancers showing samples of future choreography.

Twilight: The Musical blows through all four books in less than two hours, smartly spending the most time on Edward and Bella’s burgeoning romance from Twilight and the cracktastic plot of Breaking Dawn. Not surprisingly, the three leads were snappy and charismatic, yet they could also play the awkwardness of their characters for laughs. It’s exciting to see an actually strong Bella (played by Meghann Fahy, who made her Broadway debut in Next to Normal); Colin Hanlon (Rent, Wicked) and Jared Zirilli (Aida, Rent) upped the kitschiness to mock Edward and Jacob’s snarling feud over Bella.

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    • James

      This is a fun and well-written review. Thank you for it.

      However, in terms of the play itself, I disagree with the central premise that Bella Swan is a weak hero.

      Many (seemingly lazy) readers seem to accept Bella’s humble self-evaluations at face value. This stems from the (then) unusual approach of having the hero act as narrator. Which is why (through history) few authors have dared to even try that device — too difficult (for them) to make the hero seem heroic from within their own mind.

      Meanwhile, Bella goes from stumbling teen to become literally the most powerful person in the world. She gains immortality and is transformed like the “god-like” Edward. Basically, she becomes as “angelic” as her the Cullens (actually more so), and is able to live within their heaven-on-earth life. No small feat, although the obvious and extended religious metaphors may also be lost on many readers.

      But they shouldn’t be missing the altruism she pursues to reach that exalted, celestial state. We live in a world where violence is clearly no longer a path to peace, if it ever was one to begin with. Shooting our enemies with arrows, or pronouncing some clever phrase/spell, won’t eliminate the problems we face. Because our problems are OUR problems, something Bella eventually humbly realizes. Yet many readers won’t accept responsibility for in their own lives. So they blame Bella for proving otherwise.

      It’s a deplorable world where unselfishness is seen as a weakness, and selfishness as strength. Bella shows us that it doesn’t need to be that way. And she shows how to actually reach a celestial state of unselfishness, since happily we can read her thoughts throughout her heroes journey.

      For more on that subject, I suggest reading “Twilight for Life,” an ebook available at ella emmett dot com.

      • Uhm…

        What book were you reading? She’s a very selfish character who also seems to have an apparent allergy to the words ‘thank you’ and prefers to make a big fuss about how much she hates people paying attention to her (thereby making an even bigger scene than simply being gracious would have every time someone foolishly does something nice.)

        And when people call her weak, it’s not because she doesn’t have super powers, it’s because she goes catatonic over a guy and even attempts suicide (Edward admittedly being weak by the same token.) Simply put, she’s a weakling even by mere mortal standards. She never grows as a character, she is simply transformed from single-minded, self-centered mortal to slightly less single-minded (but still self-serving) vampire with super powers. That’s not character growth, it’s a plot device.

        Now the strength of someone like Buffy has less to do with her super powers (I don’t think characters should be credited with things that are given rather than earned) and more to do with her sharp mind and selflessness, not to mention her learning that there’s more important things in life than boys. She’s willing to make tough choices and when she dies (twice!), it’s to save the world.

        That’s what a hero is: someone who puts aside their needs for others even if it means they don’t get the boy or the white picket fence. They may make mistakes but they learn from them and they also learn the value of things like gratitude and genuine humility.

        Buffy’s not without her flaws, but she’s actually called out on them rather than her opponents merely being vilified by the narrative for challenging the hero.

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