Playing to an auditorium full of idolising pre-teens, High School Musical 2 is a sure-fire hit. The school friends all get holiday jobs at the Lava Country Club, only to find it is owned by the father of Sharpey, the self-centred 'villain' from the first film, and her twin brother Ryan. Sharpey sets out to gain revenge for her humiliation at losing the lead role in the school musical by planning to steal Troy from Gabrielle. However, as is to be expected in a Disney franchise, she fails, and by the end has become a nicer person.
While the show works for its target audience, most people over the age of twelve will find the saccharin sweetness of the whole thing simply too much. I dragged my nine year old daughter along, who is not a fan of the films, and she found it twee. We did however agree that some of the songs aren't that bad, and that the entire show was performed with energy and enthusiasm.
Liam Doyle (Troy) was cast by GMTV's Search For Troy. He is a good singer, moves well but lacks the natural stage presence and charisma to really bring the role to life. Nikki Mae as Gabrielle has a fine voice and does her best with her character. Lauren Hall as Sharpey is suitably bitchy and again has a fine singing voice. But the surprise star is Matt Kennedy as Ryan: he sings, dances incredibly well and displays his character development (yes, he actually has some) with style. The biggest problem these talented young performers face is that the roles they are playing are very one-dimensional, and as such leave little opportunity to do anything with the parts.
Ian Reddington (Mr Fulton) plays the only mature character among the teenagers and twenty-somethings that make up the rest of the cast. He joins in the singing in the second act, and even dances a little but is obviously less confident at that. He portrays the rather upstanding general manager of the resort with a very English aplomb.
Mention must be made of Kenneth Foy's wonderful set. His creation of a swimming pool on stage is one of those things which really make this show work.
If your kids are fans, then the show is worth seeing; but I don't think this production will be enough to win over the indifferent.