At the centre of any Disney musical is a great big heart. It is an experienced soul which lovingly demands sincerity and constant joy from its cast and creative team. Pulsing out from this core are themes of goodwill, tolerance, diversity and making a champion of the underdog.
Such priorities for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL-ON STAGE set in an American high school sit well when taken on board by community theatre. Rockdale Musical Society upholds the Disney ideals as its well-drilled cast of exciting triple-threat individuals retell this modern franchised classic. The performers singularly and as a team score dazzling points right throughout this entertainment.
The required exaggerated and vulnerable characterisations from the teens as well as adult teachers on stage hit the mark in this production. The age-old rivalry as well as a new interaction between jocks and brainiacs, sport and the arts is dynamically outlined by director Chris Scarpellino.
The score is slickly handled by musical directors Hanna Alexander and Ellie Gillman. Leads Troy and Gabriella played by Joshua Ridge and Cassidy Gaiter are well supported by the band’s full sound. They deliver this stable of Disney hits with a natural contemporary edge and smooth cute chemistry.
Expert humour is twinned with a large, stunning wardrobe of outfit changes by Amber-Dawn Finch and Gus Noakes as Sharpay and Ryan Evans, the popular kids, chasing a crumbling ‘Status Quo’. Also rewarding to watch is drama teacher Ms Darbus, brought to life and so much larger than life by Sasha Murray.
The well-costumed and primed machine that is this show’s ensemble locks and unlocks moves and grooves together with precise unison. Full tableaux shapes always contain interest with multi-directional forces at work.
The amazing basketball skills and effects of legendary screen and stage versions are absent here. However, the swagger of the jocks is not, and is more than capable of thrilling just the same. The Wildcats cheerleaders’ routines would definitely earn college scholarships. For the training of these routines and the ensemble choreography, Stephanie Westbrook must be congratulated.
In true Disney style, the anthem ‘We’re All in This Together’ destroys the weak strength of school-hall cliques. The huge cafeteria scene ‘Stick to the Status Quo’ is satisfyingly structured and emits much on-stage electricity.
During Act Two I thought audience members around me were on the brink of a One-Direction-fan-style meltdown. Wildcats-your work here is done! The crowd reaction in the show proper and the final sing-along of hits shows this to be a successful version of the very well-known musical.
It is highly recommended that you challenge harsh realities of real school life these holidays with this production’s high bouncing ball of hope. Watch performers of tomorrow soaring, flying and taking us on a wild, worthwhile ride at East High. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL plays at Rockdale Town Hall until Sunday October 5.
For more about High School Musical, visit http://rockdalemusicalsociety.com