What first began as an inside joke between two friends quickly became the inspiration for a popular Hilary Duff-inspired student production four years ago.
And now this upcoming Friday and Saturday nights, senior theatre majors Alex Benjamin and Catherine McGee are reviving their show, “A Not-So-Typical Gal: A Nostalgic Evening With Hilary Duff” at Jones Residential College. Co-created and co-directed by Benjamin and McGee, the musical centers on the actress, singer and star of “Lizzie McGuire,” the popular Disney Channel show that ran from 2001 to 2004.
“Originally, it started as an inside joke, just our over-obsession with Hilary,” McGee said. But when Benjamin discovered a biography written about Duff his freshman year, she said, they knew they had to include the material in a show.
The hour-long scripted show, loosely based on Duff’s life, is split into five acts, with a different actress playing Duff in each part, McGee said. Segments include her days as a child actress, her “Lizzie McGuire” period and Duff becoming a mother. The production incorporates singing and dancing, and features many of Duff’s songs, the duo said.
The seniors wanted to revive the show before they graduated to “bring it back to where (they) started” freshman year, McGee said. She added that they have made modifications to the original show, such as adding updates about Duff’s life and new songs, but the overall theme has remained the same.
“Whether or not (‘Lizzie McGuire’) was a part of your childhood,” McGee said, “it was a part of the era of our childhood. So therefore people tend to take a step back into that world and (are) like, ‘Man, it was good to be a kid.’”
For Benjamin, the show is “a celebration of nostalgia” that many who grew up in the 2000s can relate to, even if they aren’t familiar with Duff’s work.
“There’s so many people and the energy is just insane,” Benjamin said. “When people recognize references to her lyrics or things that she’s done, people will call out and yell.”
When the show first premiered their freshman year, it resonated with many of the audience members.
“I got some feedback from some of my friends who were in the Greek community, who tended to stay far away from the theater world,” McGee said. “And they were like, ‘That exceeded my expectations … I want to go and see more shows now, if this is the kind of theater that is produced on this campus.’”
For Taran Lichtenberger, the nostalgic aspect of the show was a big part of why she wants to attend this weekend. The Weinberg freshman said she thinks seeing the production will remind her of the Disney Channel shows she watched when she was growing up.
“I saw the Facebook post and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember the TV show!’” Lichtenberger said, referring to “Lizzie McGuire.”
Overall, the seniors said they hope this year’s turnout exceeds that of their freshman year. A goal that shouldn’t be too hard to reach, Benjamin said.
“I believe that everyone is a Hilary Duff fan,” he said. “They just may or may not have found that out about themselves yet.”
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