High School Musical
Book by David Simpatico
Based on the Disney Channel original movie written by Peter Barsocchini
Directed by Jeff Calhoun
Produced by Disney at National Theatre
Reviewed by Jonny Perl
Personally, I am not a fan of the entire “High School Musical” phenomenon. The 2006 Disney Channel original movie featured a completely forgettable score, terrible acting, and mediocre cinematography. Despite all this, it turned out to be a huge success!
Children all around the world are being exposed to theatre by the story of Troy Bolton, the high school basketball star, and Gabriella Montez, a “brainiac”. When the two meet over winter vacation, and later learn they attend the same school, the entire school becomes corrupt by the fact members of different “cliques” are actually interacting with each other. Sounds like a combination of Grease and West Side Story, doesn’t it?
After recently playing the role of Ryan in a production of High School Musical at the Musical Theater Center in Rockville, I thought it would be interesting to review “HSM” at the National Theatre. I was somewhat expecting a carbon copy of the movie, about the same entertainment level. Boy, was I wrong!
The show displays many exceptionally wonderful talents such as John Jeffery Martin and Arielle Jacobs as Troy and Gabriella, outstanding singers doing outstanding harmonies. Bobby List, who plays Ryan, moves the show along with his comical timing and fabulous dancing. Ellen Harvey who plays Ms. Darbus, the wacky theater teacher, performs wonderfully. She reminds me of my own theater teacher as she runs around the room making crazy facial expressions speaking in many various accents.
Although the individual talents of the cast are excellent, the group dance numbers such as “Stick to The Status Quo” and “We’re All in This Together” show off the amazing dancers as well as the incredible choreography by Lisa Stevens. The dancing in this show is certainly the highlight.
HSM also features magnificent technical effects. The set will take you everywhere in a high school including, the front yard, complete with lion statues, the gym, with basketball hoops and bleachers, and the theater class room with instruments and comedy and tragedy masks hanging on the walls. Congrats to scenic designer Kenneth Foy.
Of course, with every good show there are a few lesser qualities. I can name at least two in this show. The first is Chandra Lee Schwartz who plays Sharpay. She throws away her comic role with her terrible timing and squeaky character voice. Perhaps she could play a more serious role better, but she couldn’t play the part of an evil, dumb thespian. Another lesser factor of the show is the overall volume. If you go to see the show, which I highly recommend you do, be sure not to sit too close to the stage. I could barely hear by the end of the performance.
Overall, this is a great production. Congratulations to the entire cast and crew. If you already know and love HSM, come see this production now. Even if you didn’t like the movie (such as myself) come see the show anyways at the National Theatre. You’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
Running Time: 2:15 with 1 intermission
When: February 5-17th
Where: National Theatre,1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington
Info: Call 202-628-6161 or visit the website.
This reviewer recommends: ages 5+
DC Theatre Scene reviewer Gary McMillan’s review is here.