High School Musical on Stage! based on the Disney Channel movie by Peter Barsocchini and book by David Simpatico. Music adapted, arranged and produced by Bryan Louiselle. Directed by Berin Denham, music directed by Leisa Keen and dance choreographed by Jordan Kelly in the Big Top, Eddison Park, Woden, until October 13, 2007, at 7pm. Tickets (5 years and over) $40/pp. Group rate (10 or more) $35/pp. Tickets: ticketmaster.com.au
The success of this show depends first of all on recorded sound, supplied by Disney Theatricals, which took the local team three months to re-record incorporating voice-overs and cues for singers, dance numbers and lights. Though not credited in the program, the sound team’s final cut, run on a laptop, worked like a charm.
Second, though the show is an example of franchised American schmaltz, the directors achieved the right high-energy level, timing, dance work and harmony singing from a large cast ranging from young teenagers to adults to make it work on stage in its own right. In particular, last Saturday, the central couple of Troy and Gabriella played that night by Andy Burton and Jacinta Mai Le produced the kind of electricity needed to focus the production. They managed to make a sentimental story pleasantly romantic.
The theme of High School Musical is seductive for an old drama teacher like me. The basketball coach talks of teaching teamwork, commitment and self-confidence. The drama teacher explodes with “That’s exactly what I teach” and then loudly attacks the tradition of sport being funded way above the arts. Of course, it’s hard to reject the resolution of the conflicts with hugs all round between the Jocks, the Brainiacs, the Thespians and the Skater Dudes in the song We’re All In This Together, however unrealistic this may be.
“I didn’t lie. I improvised,” says the fly in the ointment Drama Club President Sharpay, perhaps better representing the way people in power continue to behave after high school. It seemed to me that Vanessa de Jager had some difficulty changing Sharpay from “I am the star” to “I’m sorry” in her final scene with Gabriella. However, it’s clear this group of thespians have learned teamwork, commitment and self-confidence, and their show is certainly worth seeing (so long as younger audience members don’t imagine high school is really like this, even in America).
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