Uncle Randy Productions

High School Musical

Dates 7 – 19 November 2007 Venue Centennial Theatre, North Vancouver

Reviewer John Jane

I have to confess, I wasn’t sure what to expect before going to see the stage version of this perfectly packaged pop phenomenon from the Disney Channel. I had never seen the television movie and was curious to see if the brouhaha was really justified.

The verdict? Well, if you’re female and between eight and fourteen years old, it’s definitely justified. High School Musical is a high-energy spectacle with a simple (and predictable) storyline and out-of-the-Disney-box characters. Moreover, in this mounting, Richard Berg and Roger Hasket have put together an immensely appealing local cast and some cleverly re-arranged catchy, toe-tapping tunes.

In previous Uncle Randy Productions Richard Berg and Roger Hasket have stamped their own riskier adaptation on popular musical fare, but this time, with HSM they’re pretty much faithful to the gospel according to Disney.

Elicia Mackenzie and Dane Szohner are pleasantly perky as Gabriella and Troy who are coupled together in a karaoke contest and find that they enjoy doing more than just making music together. Through some manifestation of divine direction, Gabriella is transferred to East High, the same school that Troy is attending – At this point, any similarity with Grease is purely coincidental.

Troy is captain of the school’s basketball team and Gabriella is soon recruited into the science squad, but they manage to find common ground in auditioning for the high-school extravaganza, “Juliet and Romeo” – yes, that’s right! “Juliet and Romeo.” Bratty drama princess, Sharpay Evans and her not-so-evil twin brother Ryan (who both seem to have the “hots” for Troy) have already laid claim to the leading roles and don’t welcome the interlopers.

Capilano College graduate, Amanda Williamson pretty much steals the show with her delightfully over-the-top portrayal of the posturing Sharpay. With the show’s lack of real conflict, the part yells out for outragous camp. Also excellent are Rebecca Neilson, who makes the most of her role as Kelsi and Daniel Alwell is “too cool for school” as Jack Scott, East High’s P.A. broadcaster.

The only “adults” we see actually supply much of the comedy. Drama teacher Ms. Darbus, played by one of only two of the show’s Equity members, Sylvia Zaradic and Coach Bolton (Stephen Atkins), who also happens to be Troy’s Dad, make it obvious that they view education from entirely different aspects.

The sets are colourful and simple. The production crew wisely opt for gadget-free scenery rather than big production mechanical equipment. Songs performed by the entire company generate the most excitement with the largely young audience with band leader Courtenay Ennis and his seven-piece unit providing rock solid accompaniment.

High School Musical should not only strike a chord with Mouseketeer fans, but with the whole family. Anyone attending this show expecting only an amateur performance should be pleasantly surprised.

© 2007 John Jane