SHOWING : November 06, 2008 - November 16, 2008
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
The hit sequel to one of the world's best musicals "High School Musical" comes to you LIVE at the FOX THEATRE!
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
And With This, I Lose All My Credibility|
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 ||
I am so embarrassed. I went into Theater of the Stars’ stage adaptation of the Disney hit “High School Musical II” fully expecting to hate every minute of it. After all, I’ve ho-hummed my way through thousands of viewings of the TV version with my rabidly HSM-obsessed daughter and am second to none in my scorn for the series and its so-called songs. But, given the assignment, I looked on it as an opportunity for a Daddy-Daughter night out, girded my peace-bonded loins, and ventured Fox-ward.|
Not only did we both have a rip-snortin’ good time, I also found those inanely addictive tunes running through my surprised mind.
So, why do I suddenly like it? I have some theories:
(1) I have absolutely no integrity and will give a “pass” to any theatre who comps me.
(2) Anything I see with my daughter is, by definition, good.
(3) I suffered a brain aneurysm and am really hallucinating. Even now.
(4) None of us really exist outside of the pods our keepers store our bodies in.
Actually, I do have one idea that may have some merit – maybe I’m just predisposed to like musicals more when they are performed live on stage by actual singers and dancers (not Hollywood “faces”), especially when showered with the sort of theatrics and stagecraft that only big budgets can afford and only creative instincts can effectively wield. Let’s run with that one.
Leads Anderson Davis (Troy) and Arielle Jacobs (Gabrielle) are, as expected, blandly attractive, but, jeepers, can they belt and dance! And Rebecca Faulkenberry’s Sharpay is not only funny and annoying, as she should be, but she also goes off the scale with hotness. Even her headshot in the program makes her look like an attractively pouty “spoil-me” Diva. Bobby List’s Ryan as a lot thinner (and light-loafered) than his on-screen counterpart, but he sells everything, especially the baseball number “I Don’t Dance.”
And, the design team has put together a fast-paced, ever-changing set that combines gee-whiz tackiness with elaborately skewed perspective inconsistencies (that, strangely, worked for me). It’s as if a real High School Theater Department has been given a Broadway budget – everything flows together smoothly with fast-change efficiency, but it looks like it’s painted by a rushed art-class on old oft-used flats.
And that, my friends, is why the whole thing works. On TV, we’re stuck with the ultra-real – location shoots and real pools and manicured golf courses. On stage, we’re free to put everyone and everything into a Fabulous Artifice – into that “Gee, Kids, Let’s Put on a Show” world that never existed other than, ironically, in the movies.
All of a sudden, the artifice makes the idealized Disney-view make sense, takes us back into that painted-flat world that made us love musicals in the first place. Now the tackiness of the set and design gels perfectly with the artifice of the plot and the characters, and it makes the whole thing fly like bird. It’s easy to put on our cynical masks when we watch all this on screen, easy to mock the commercialized formulaic writing, the bland good looks of the cast, and the calculated-to-top-the-charts popness of the music. But, seeing it on stage, we’re back into Mickey-and-Judy-land, and I, for one, loved it all.
Of course, the novelty of seeing new faces in the roles and seeing the tweaks and trims that went into the script doesn’t hurt. An especially good choice was beefing up the role of Mr. Fulton and putting it in the very funny hands of Patrick Richwood (anyone remember him as the elevator operator in “Pretty Woman?”). High points for me were the faux-“Stomp” kitchen number (“Work This Out”), the aforementioned “I Don’t Dance,” and Troy’s Act Two BIG solo “Bet On It,” which was imaginatively staged and beautifully performed. And, of course, Ms. Faulkenberry won me over at the top with her “Fabulous” anthem to self-indulgence.
On the other hand, it’s still the Fox, so the energetic cast is sometimes kneecapped by the bad sound – opening number lyrics disappeared entirely, and the amusing faux-native patter of “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” is completely unhearable. But, as the run continues, maybe the sound staff will find their footing (or hearing) and these irritants will be rubbed away.
So, all I can recommend is, put your cynicism on hold, get your mind into “Let’s put on a show” mode, and, I believe, you’ll find yourself enjoying this production as much as we did.
And, if you have any shame at all, it won’t be such a GUILTY pleasure. Maybe I’m not as embarrassed as I initially claimed. Bet on it!
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Speaking of losing credibility... by Okely Dokely|
| I don't know if I should be letting this out, but I saw Twilight tonight and LOVED it. I am officially on the bandwagon.|
| || Ha! by EKFricke|
| Quick - both of you! Quote some obscure eastern european playwrite - stat! "Tu as des levres d'enfer" or some such.|
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)