×

Disney’s High School Musical

This stage version of the Disney Channel telefilm, in its world premiere here, outstrips its source in scope, accomplishment and artistry, while remaining true to its offhand charms. Judging from the uproarious audience reaction on opening night, this is a show that undoubtedly will find further venues beyond its current, already soldout Minneapolis run.

With:
Troy Bolton - Benjamin R. Bakken Gabriella Montez - Katie Allen Kelsi Neilson - Isabella Dawis Sharpay Evans - Laura Otremba Ryan Evans - Brian Skellenger Jack Scott - Cody Braudt Martha Cox - Risa Dorken Taylor McKessie - Ivory Doublette Chad Danforth - Nathan Shrake Zeke Baylor - Jameson Pieper Coach Bolton - Steve Sweere Mrs. Darbus - Beth Gilleland

This stage version of the Disney Channel telefilm, in its world premiere here, outstrips its source in scope, accomplishment and artistry, while remaining true to its offhand charms. Judging from the uproarious audience reaction on opening night, this is a show that undoubtedly will find further venues beyond its current, already soldout Minneapolis run.

The sagest prognosticator would have been hard-pressed to foresee the explosive success of “High School Musical,” with its stellar cable ratings, DVDs and CDs flying off the shelves and an audience ranging from targeted adolescents all the way down to younger school children.

Perhaps even harder to imagine is the property’s suitability for stage translation; for all its considerable energy and seemingly laboratory-crafted catchy pop (including a handful of additional new songs for the show), it remains a slim story about teenage love and social acceptance.

It comes as a happy surprise, then, to see the production at Children’s Theater Company under Peter Rothstein’s direction. This is a show that not only breezes past its inspiration in quality, it extracts the best dialogue, movement and sentiment from its source. In fact, it amplifies these elements and generally sweeps up the audience with a lovely wave of optimism for the years ahead — or, depending on one’s age, a wash of selective memory that nearly persuades us it might be worth returning to those tumultuous years.

This stage version dispenses with the TV version’s backstory opening, opting instead for the huge ensemble number “Start of Something New,” in which the 30-plus cast launches into Michael Matthew Ferrell’s spirited choreography. The action is somehow fussy yet streamlined, the intricacies of musicvideo melded to contemporary dance with a sunniness that emphasizes brightness and cheer. Big prerecorded guitars roar, drums thunder and youth is served up with moving elan.

The plot, and a great deal of specific dialogue, emerge unchanged from the source: Basketball hero Troy (Benjamin R. Bakken) meets Gabriella (Katie Allen) on vacation; Gabriella subsequently transfers to Troy’s school, where they learn that, in their everyday milieu, they are part of two opposing cliques (jocks and brains) whose members are not expected to fraternize.

Young love appears thwarted until word comes of tryouts for East High’s annual musical; having bonded over karaoke during their initial meeting, Troy and Gabriella realize they can bridge their differences through the great equalizer of musical theater.

What made the telefilm such a guilty pleasure is here unerringly accented and writ large. Steve Sweere is more gruff and explosive here as Troy’s coach-father, and sibling rivals Sharpay (Laura Otremba) and Ryan (Brian Skellenger) come across as sweeter and more sympathetic. Sharpay is more silly than lethal, and Skellenger turns Ryan into an unapologetically campy sweetheart while hurling himself into his character’s repressed theatrical energy with audience-pleasing results.

Rothstein is a master of scope, as the show frequently offers huge, complicated ensemble numbers, while retaining the charm of the original’s breezy school scenes: the cellphone confiscation in the classroom, the high-minded politics of the musical audition (Beth Gilleland delivers the goods as the tart Mrs. Darbus), the percussive bouncing beat of basketball practice.

As in the original, matters are scrubbed clean of adolescent sex and ennui like an airbrushed yearbook picture. And the show’s final bit of insight — “We’re different in a good way” — doesn’t stand up to further contemplation once you’ve walked out into the night.

But no matter. “High School Musical” has struck a chord in its many forms because it depicts adolescence as a time of possibility, self-realization and an innocent benevolence we would all like to see evinced in life.

Disney's High School Musical

Children's Theater Company's Cargill Stage, Minneapolis; 298 seats, $50 top

Production: A Children's Theater Company presentation of a musical in two acts with book by David Simpatico, songs by Matthew Gerrard & Robbie Nevil, Ray Cham, Greg Cham & Andrew Seeley, Randy Petersen & Kevin Quinn, Andy Dodd & Adam Watts, Bryan Louiselle, David N. Lawrence & Faye Greenberg, Jamie Houston. Based on the Disney Channel movie, written by Peter Barsocchini. Directed by Peter Rothstein.

Creative: Set, Kate Sutton-Johnson; costumes, Rich Hamson; lighting, Geoff Korf; sound, C. Andrew Mayer; production stage manager, Danae Schniepp. Opened, reviewed Jan. 5, 2007. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Troy Bolton - Benjamin R. Bakken Gabriella Montez - Katie Allen Kelsi Neilson - Isabella Dawis Sharpay Evans - Laura Otremba Ryan Evans - Brian Skellenger Jack Scott - Cody Braudt Martha Cox - Risa Dorken Taylor McKessie - Ivory Doublette Chad Danforth - Nathan Shrake Zeke Baylor - Jameson Pieper Coach Bolton - Steve Sweere Mrs. Darbus - Beth GillelandWith: Jarius Abts, Francesca Curran, Madeleine Gibba, Reid Harmsen, Destini Huston, Nate Irvin, Ryland Marsh, Ryan McCartan, Bryan Moore, Chelsea Reller, Valerie Roder, Jemar Rovie-Frenchwood, Brandon Sommers, Amy Stockhaus, Kyle Weiler.

More Legit

  • montreal just for laughs Comedy Festival

    Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival Is the 'Coachella of Comedy'

    Every summer, Montreal becomes the epicenter of the comedy world as the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival takes over the Canadian city. Now in its 37th year, the mindboggling scale of the festival is there in the numbers: more than 1,600 artists from across the globe (speaking English, French and other languages) performing 250 shows [...]

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

  • Warner Music Group Logo

    Warner Music Acquires Musical Theater Indie First Night Records

    Warner Music Group has acquired First Night Record, an independent record label for West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings. The company will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music Division, led by President Kevin Gore. First Night co-founder John Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year consulting agreement to identify and record musical theatre productions in [...]

  • Broadway

    Broadway Back In Biz After Power Outage Ends

    The bright lights of Broadway were back on Sunday morning as midtown Manhattan recovered from a power outage that lasted nearly seven hours in some areas. Social media was full of examples of how New Yorkers rose to the occasion after the power went out on a hot Saturday night shortly before 7 p.m. ET. [...]

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    Power Restored in New York City After Massive Outage Hits Broadway

    UPDATED: Power has gradually been restored to Midtown Manhattan and the theater district after what New York City officials described as a rolling blackout that darkened Times Square and other high-traffic areas on Saturday night. Officials said all power should be restored to the 73,000 customers affected by the outage by midnight ET. Local media [...]

  • Slave Play

    Controversial 'Slave Play' Is Broadway Bound

    “Slave Play,” a controversial drama that examined race and sexuality, is moving to Broadway for a limited run. Written by theatrical wunderkind Jeremy O. Harris, “Slave Play” was a sensation when it ran at the New York Theatre Workshop, drawing such bold-faced names as Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, and Tony Kushner. The show will debut at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content