High School Musical Written by David Simpatico (Disney) Directed & Choreographed by David Connolly Music Director Mark Camilleri Performed by David Cotton, Melissa O’Neil, additional cast of 18, plus local high school students Drayton Entertainment St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs (April 29 to May 30) King’s Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishene (June 3 to June 20)
Live! On Stage! Review by Mary Alderson (Disclaimer: The reviewer’s son is part of this cast)
Everybody loves the musical “Grease” — boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy denies he knows girl, and then boy and girl are reunited, when she sheds her goody-two shoes image. Disney’s popular movie, High School Musical, has now been taken to the live stage, and it is the Grease of the new millennium. Instead of a greased-lightning hot rod, the vehicle in High School Musical is the cell phone. The similarities between the two musicals are many, and in fact, High School Musical may actually be the better show — with an improved message. Instead of forcing the new girl to fit in with the school gang and bringing her to the dark side, in High School Musical, the couple gets together and everyone is praised for their differences. In fact, the jocks, the brainiacs and the musical theatre geeks all learn to respect each other and even cross over from clique to clique. David Cotton is excellent as Troy, the jock basketball star who finds out that he likes singing. His smooth, melodic voice suits the part well. Former Canadian Idol Melissa O’Neil is Gabriella, the brainiac who decides to try out for a musical. Again her pop-style singing is perfect for the role, and the two make a charming couple as their worlds collide. Dina Chiarcossi is excellent as the spiteful and vicious Sharpay, who schemes to keep her crown as queen of the musicals. Jeff Moulton plays a low-key Ryan, Sharpay’s hen-pecked twin brother. Another 14 singers/dancers/actors: Ryan Adkins, Thomas Alderson, Michelle Black, Ken Chamberland, Rachel Crowther, Stephen Dickson, Alison Jantzie, Tim Porter, Kiera Sangster, Erika Santillana, Jaz Sealey, Amelia Sirianni, Liam Tobin, and Sarah Vance, make up the cast of energetic and enthusiastic basketball jocks and brainy science students. Susan Johnston Collins provides great humour as the eccentric drama teacher Ms. Darbus, and Kent Sheridan is the tough-guy Coach Bolton. In addition, 12 area high school students join the professional cast for a few numbers. Each week of the show’s run, a new group of high school students takes to the stage. High School Musical could have been dismissed as fluff, but Director David Connolly has made it spectacular and genuinely funny. There are frequent costume changes as the clothing become increasingly impressive with plenty of glitter. The choreography is lively, with many cast members doing acrobatic flips and cartwheels, not to mention basketball moves. The lengthy megamix finale was spellbinding – the only complaint would be that the audience didn’t know when to give the cast a standing ovation. In keeping with his style of getting seats filled, Artistic Director Alex Mustakas has another hit on his hands. The St. Jacobs run is nearly sold out, and the show has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It is obviously very popular with 12-year-old girls, but seniors were seen leaving the theatre with broad smiles on their faces. It’s great family entertainment with catchy songs and vibrant dance that anyone would enjoy. High School Musical continues with eight shows a week until May 30 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse and then June 20 at Penetanguishene. Tickets are available at Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check //www.draytonentertainment.com
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.