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  • Writer's picturechitheatretriathlon

'The Hilary Duff Project' is, you guessed it, what dreams are made of

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

, Cat McGee, Anne Martin, Mateo Hernandez, Alison Smith, and Kelsey Erhart in 'The Hilary Duff Project'. Photo by Sarah Potter.
Pictured above: The ensemble in 'The Hilary Duff Project'. Photo by Cat Potter.

Hey now, don't worry because Hilary Duff has come to save us all. The Newport Theater hosts a proud, well-researched tribute to Lizzie McGuire herself. Written, directed, and co-created by Cat McGee with Alex Benjamin, the phrase labor of love has never reverberated more strongly than through this celebration filled with thrilling video clips (like a certain trip to Rome), musical theatre riffs (hey, Phantom), and of course, butterflies (metamorphosis, baby).

We go back, back to the beginning to hear about Hilary's life from her first role in Casper Meets Wendy, the golden age of Lizzie McGuire, and television comeback in Younger (a treasure in these trying times that keeps our beloved Broadway actors in business). The blurred line between church service and cult is a fun dance we indulge with heaven sent choreography from Collin Quinn Rice. Song titles and lyrics are whispered among the ensemble like sacred secrets. Communion is incorporated with a drinking game as we take in the commandments and gospel of Ms. Duff's discography.

In the name of the Duff and her holy spirit, Kelsey Erhart, Mateo Hernandez, Becca Hurd, Anne Martin, Cat McGee, Em Modaff, Laura Nelson, Jermaine Robinson Jr., Shaina Schrooten, and Alison Smith take us on an emotional, fun, full-bodied experience. Shifting narration and the heavy crown of the A Cinderella Story star (step aside, Selena), everyone shows our girl can rock. While a crowd pleaser on premise, Catherine Miller rewards us with a cast who prove with every joke and gesture they're not to be underestimated.

Pictured above: Shaina Schrooten and Emilie Modaff in 'The Hilary Duff Project'. Photo by Sarah Potter.

This staged E! True Hollywood Story is a satisfying walk down memory lane with singing along and posting on social media encouraged during the show. Thanks to projections design by Steve Labedz, clips of a Lizzie McGuire episode, including its classic intro, remind us why we stanned before stanning was invented. It's difficult to choose from her endless repertoire, but, "So Yesterday", "Little Voice", and Raise Your Voice anthem, "Someone's Watching Over Me", thankfully make the cut.

While it's obvi about HD, some manage to steal her thunder. Big sis, Haylie, makes a cameo and Aaron F*cking Carter brings down the house cause ain't nobody do it like Aaron can. Emilie Modaff drops the mic after voicing queer justice for Lalaine aka Miranda from LM. Mateo Hernandez proves masterful in demonstrating the iconic Lizzie McGuire booty shake. Internet comments ranging from two months to twelve years ago (!) from fans are read aloud as pure poetry.

Even the biggest of superfans will be surprised by facts about our favorite teen scene queen. Delivered via quickly cut clips with quippy commentary a la Mike's Super Short Show , Duff and Carter apparently dated for TWO YEARS. Paolo from The Lizzie McGuire Movie WAS FROM FLORIDA. People still vehemently detest Lindsay Lohan as a chorus of "boos" emerged whenever she appeared on screen.

Hilary was my first concert. I performed Hilary and Haylie's cover of "Our Lips Are Sealed" at my fourth grade talent show. I even made a scrapbook with pictures of myself with her (please don't judge me). The Hilary Duff Project is a welcome reminder of why I, like so many, loved her and still do! And if the need for a dramaturg for this show arises, you know where to find me.



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