David Cotton as Troy, Melissa O’Neil as Gabriella
Written by David Simpatico
Directed & Choreographed by David Connelly, with Louise Johnson and Luke Brown
Musical direction by Peter Aylin
Performed by David Cotton, Melissa O’Neil, Lisa Lennox, Chad McNamara, with Thomas Alderson, Mark Harapiak, Cassandra Kranjec, Amelia Sirianni, Stephanie West, Shaun Castor, Liam Flanagan, Alison Jantzie, Tim Porter, Liam Tobin, Jonny Wexler, Ken Chamberland, Caitlin Goguen, Susan Johnston Collins, Alana Randall, Sarah Vance.
Drayton Entertainment Production
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, Waterloo – April 21 to May 15, 2010
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend – May 19 to May 30, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
(Disclaimer: The reviewer’s son is in the cast.)
We’re All In This Together
Last year, when High School Musical hit the stages in St. Jacobs and Penetanguishene, it was an amazingly energetic show. This year, the energy has been kicked up a notch or two, if that’s possible!
The show is lots of fun, with enthusiastic singing and dancing. It’s back at St. Jacobs after completely selling out there last year, then in mid-May, it opens Huron Country Playhouse’s season in Grand Bend.
Director David Connelly describes it as a Romeo and Juliet story; two kids from opposite sides fall in love – the jock and the brainiac. Troy, the school’s basketball star, meets Gabriella while on a ski vacation. They take part in a karaoke contest and are surprised to learn they can sing. But when Gabriella enrols at Troy’s school, he’s embarrassed to tell his friends he likes singing. She is pressured into taking part in a math competition, rather than audition for the high school musical.
This show is also the new Grease, but instead of peer pressure on the couple to conform, High School Musical celebrates the differences. The cliques can mix: the jocks, brainiacs, skater dudes and musical theatre geeks can all be friends. They can even admit to enjoying activities outside their clique, like the jock who bakes, or the skateboarder girl who plays cello. In act one, they are afraid to mix up the cliques, singing “Stick to the Status Quo”, but by the end, the kids declare, “We’re all in this together.”
With 10 of the 20 cast members returning from last year, the show has all the same good qualities. Plus, 10 new cast members have joined, bringing with them experience playing the same characters at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax. Like the plot, the two groups have come together, raising the energy level.
David Cotton reprises the role of Troy Bolton – this year with hair à la Zac Efron or Justin Bieber, which is sure to impress the girls in the audience. But more impressive is David’s voice. He nails every song perfectly, with better harmony than Efron’s movie versions.
Canadian Idol Melissa O’Neil returns as Gabriella. Her character is quiet, shy, smart, and endearing much like O’Neil herself. Her solid singing experience is certainly evident.
Lisa Lennox is the evil Sharpay, with ideal comedic timing and plenty of energy. Her twin brother Ryan is played perfectly by Chad McNamara. The two of them are amazing dancers. Lennox and McNamara, along with Jonny Wexler, who plays Chad Danforth, are TV’s Doodlebops. All three know how to hold the young audience’s attention. In addition, there are four other members of the Doodlebops live touring shows in this production: Shaun Castor (Mongo), Tim Porter (James), Amelia Sirianni (Kelsi) and Sarah Vance (Cathy).
Susan Johnston Collins is back as the eccentric drama teacher Ms Darbus, perfect in the comedic role. She talks to her class in a variety of accents, each one funnier than the last. Mark Harapiak, just back from a North American tour as King Arthur in Camelot, plays the nasty, tough Coach Bolton well. After Bolten has his revelation, Harapiak infuses some comedy into the character, joining the students for the final dance numbers.
The rest of the cast, Thomas Alderson, Cassandra Kranjec, Stephanie West, Liam Flanagan, Alison Jantzie, Tim Porter, Liam Tobin, Ken Chamberland, Caitlin Goguen, and Alana Randall, are adept at handling various parts and many quick costume changes. They also bring great enthusiasm and energy with their singing and dancing. An audience favourite is “The Start of Something New” where the cast sings and signs the lyrics. The huge megamix finale with the entire cast is spectacular.
This show is very family friendly with a 7:00 p.m. start, wrapping up at 9:30 so the kids can get home to bed. There are also booster seats available for diminutive theatregoers – extras were brought in from the Elmira McDonalds.
Kids love seeing the movie brought to life on stage. They have the DVD memorized and know exactly what will happen next. For the most part, they love the predictability. However, last year, I chatted with one young fan who was upset that a new song had been added that wasn’t in the movie. But then it was forgivable when her friend reminded her that the song was an “extra track” on the CD.
If you have pre-teens in your family, take them to the show. But even if you don’t have a handy youngster, go anyway. It is a great evening of entertainment, with superior singing, lively choreography, and a positive message. All ages can enjoy High School Musical.
Just a note – if you have the Drayton Entertainment Theatre Guide 2010, there have been changes: The booklet lists High School Musical as appearing at the Drayton Theatre, but the show has been moved to St. Jacobs due to renovations at Drayton. Also, the booklet shows that High School Musical runs until June 5 in Grand Bend, but now it is scheduled to close May 30. Order tickets now, last year it sold out.
High School Musical continues with eight shows a week until May 15 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, and then from May 19 to May 30 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the St. Jacobs box office 519-757-7788, Huron Country Playhouse box office at 519-238-6000, Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check out www.draytonentertainment.com