Never mind Michael Coveney, Michael Billington, Charles Spencer, Nicholas de Jongh et al. Celebrity guests brought the harshest critics of all with them to Saturday’s press night (5 July 2008, previews from 28 June) for the London premiere production of High School Musical - their children. The Disney screen-to-stager has moved into the 3,500-seat Hammersmith Apollo for a summer term until 31 August 2008 (See News, 28 Jan 2008).

Amongst the stars accompanied by their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and/or other pint-sized family and friends for Saturday’s glitzy opening were: Linford Christie, Alesha Dixon, Andy Serkis, Michael Ball, Sharon Davies, June Brown, Bonnie Langford, David Grant, Jessie Wallace, Linda Robson, Janie Dee and Vanessa Feltz.

The stage adaptation of High School Musical tells how Troy Bolton, a popular basketball star, and Gabriella Montez, a shy, academically gifted newcomer, discover they share a secret passion for singing. When they sign up together to audition for the leads in the school musical, it threatens East High's rigid social order and sends their peers into uproar.

In London, Mark Evans plays Troy opposite Claire-Marie Hall as Gabriella. They appear alongside EastEndersLetitia Dean, who makes her musical debut as drama teacher Ms Darbus (See News, 15 Apr 2008) and Norman Bowman as Coach Bolton. The cast also features Rebecca Faulkenberry (Sharpay Evans), Michael Pickering (Ryan Evans), Nadine Higgin (Taylor McKessie), Damian Winter-Higgins (Chad Danforth), Dylan Turner (Zeke Baylor), Ben Nicholas (Jack Scott), Laurie Scarth (Martha Cox) and Holly Taylor (Kelsi Neilson).

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For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the High School Musical arrivals – on the red carpet with myriad basketball players and cheerleaders - and curtain call at the Hammersmith Apollo and at the post-show party at Riverside Studios. In addition to those mentioned above, other first night guests – with or without children - included Jason Donovan, Daniel Woodhouse, Sara Furlong, Wendi Peters, Derek Thompson, Alice Beer, Edward Hall, Issy van Randwyck, Colin Salmon, Bethan Eldridge, Zoe Rainey, Tania Bryer and Summer Strallen.

Since its US premiere in January 2006, the made-for-TV Disney movie High School Musical has gone on to become a global phenomenon. Winner of two Emmy Awards, the soundtrack has been certified Double Platinum in the UK alone, while DVD sales have topped 1.6 million. The screen sequel, High School Musical 2, broke TV viewing records in both the US and UK.

High School Musical features a book by David Simpatico (adapted from the original film script by Peter Barsocchini) and a score which includes all the songs from the original chart-topping soundtrack, including the UK hit singles “Breaking Free” and “We’re All in This Together”. It’s directed by Jeff Calhoun, designed by Kenneth Foy and choreographed by Lisa Stevens, with costumes by Wade Laboissonniere, lighting by Ken Billington, sound by Rick Clarke and musical production by Bryan Louiselle.

The London cast is completed by Gregor Stewart, Simon Hardwick, Nyroy Dixon, Matt Flint, Adam Bracegirdle, Paul Riddiford, Stevie Hutchinson, Matthew Russell-Jones, Lauren Varnham, Kirsty McDonald, Helen Morris, Maxine Ewenson, Stephanie Siadatan, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Samantha Tan, Hayley Griffiths, Chris Milford, Carl Au, Karli Vale and Sarah-Louise Warden. The Hammersmith run of High School Musical is separate to an 11-month, 29-venue UK regional tour which launched in January (See News, 3 Jul 2007).

-by Terri Paddock