September 22, 2009
"When you act like something you’re not, pretty soon that’s what you become."I have never seen any of the High School Musical films or shows, and am only moderately aware of the franchise via the media. This, presumably, is because I am not the parent of a small child or adolescent girl, a theory reinforced by the crowd tonight, full of young girls with pom poms a la cheerleader-style, wowed by their heroes – it was great to see the magical expressions on their faces.
For anyone who has managed to escape the HSM phenomenon, this is a colour-by-numbers Disney teen story of high school rivalry, friendship and romance. In a nutshell, Troy is the heartthrob, Gabriella is his sweetheart and Sharpay is her rich bitch love rival. This sequel is set in the summer after they graduate high school, when Troy and his friends land summer jobs at Sharpay’s dad’s golf club, and the formulaic tale consists of high-energy musical dance routines, lots of bitching and the inevitable ‘should I follow my heart or my scholarship’ choice for Troy. The concept really is this generation’s more modern, less edgy version of Grease.
The performances were polished and professional, but Gabriella’s character was disappointingly bland – the real show stealing performance was Sharpay, played by the excellent Lauren Hall, whose acting and singing were outstanding. One question which has to be asked is what on earth is Les Dennis doing acting in this play? He has a minor, forgettable supporting role as Mr Fulton and his presence would only suggest work is thin on the ground these days – he was ok, the character was pantomime-ish as it was meant to be, but the role could have been played by anyone of a similar age and style, and the rest of the cast were young actors getting their big break – so if they were going to get a token ‘star’ it should have been one of the main characters.
The music was formulaic and largely forgettable, apart from the big heartbreak ballad by Gabriella and Troy in the second half, and the ‘All for One’ song in the finale. The sets were really vibrant and I particularly loved the swimming pool set which gave simple but effective visual depths. Costumes were fun and colourful, and overall this was a very well done big production without being too lavish. And despite losing interest in the middle of the play, I did accidentally find myself clapping along at the end. But don’t tell anyone.
Of course the really important review is from my guest, Michaela, aged 12, who says "It was better than the first one cos it had better sets and the music was more pop". Which is really all you need to know.