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.
The stage adaptation 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.
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 and stars Letitia Dean, who makes her musical debut as drama teacher Ms Darbus, alongside Mark Evans and Claire-Marie Hall as would-be sweethearts Troy and Gabriella (See News, 15 Apr 2008).
Initial critical opinion was generally divided between those in the “resistance is futile” camp, and those who felt the show is best summed up as “pile it high and flog it cheap”. Of the performances, most acknowledged Letitia Dean’s “good comic value” as Ms Darbus, whilst Evans and Hall managed to remain “sweet without becoming cloying” as Troy and Gabriella. Less eulogistic were comments about the “lousy” production values – one critic simply describing the sets as an “eyesore” - and director Jeff Calhoun’s “plodding staging”. However, despite any reservations, all were unanimous in their assessment of the show\'s impact on the generally youthful audience – “like a Beatles gig but for eight-year-olds”.
- by Theo Bosanquet