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High School Musical (tour)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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If you have kids into all things High School Musical, you will know how much of a draw, this Disney cash-cow has become. But, what you might not have realised is how slick and highly addictive the whole show is, when transferred to the stage. True, it does lack the charisma over-drive that is Zack Effron. But it still remains a catchy, and incredibly watchable Grease-lite musical extravaganza.

Instead of Danny, we have Troy, the football jock (Ashley Day) and we watch as he falls for the new-girl-in-town; brainiac, Gabriella Montez (Lorna Want). Sure, these characters could be sponsored by Coca-Cola as they are so damn nice and always doing the right thing, but the kids love 'em even if they lack the rough edges of Danny Zuko and Sandy's Pink Ladies.

But, if you, like your kids, surrender to the sheer exuberance on display here, High School Musical really does leave you soaring, as the song "Breaking Free" goes. Most of the credit for this goes to the excellent cast, including one of the hardest working ensembles you will see on tour.

Day has solid vocals and tries his best to make Troy less cardboard and likewise Want invests some emotion into her Gabriella. But it is the supporting players that embrace the material with far more vigour and verve. Helen George and Lee Honey-Jones are an absolute scream as Sharpay and Ryan Evans - the camp brother and sister from Disney hell. Like the siblings in the hit film, Blades Of Glory, they almost sneer with each dastardly act.

I also enjoyed the performances of Carlton Connell and Hannah Levane as the obligatory best friends, Chad and Taylor. These two bring energy and huge amounts of stage presence to their underwritten roles. At times the plot fizzes along like a bottle of pop and these two stop it from becoming the stuff that rots your teeth, with their street-wise turns.

Claire Machin and Jennifer Tanarez also exude charm as both the matriarchal theatre tutor, Ms Darbus and timid, bespectacled songwriter Kelsi Neilson. The talented ensemble rise to Lisa Stevens' polished choreography with real ease and grace.

Unlike many touring productions, this one does give you your money's worth. The kids on the night I attended adored this production, engaging with every single moment. One seven year old described it as "awesome" and for a child that age, it is exactly that, as this is their Rydell High.

As for any parents dreading seeing the show, the messages within are cute and combined with the winning performers and catchy tunes, you will be glad that this school's out for Summer and beyond.

-Glenn Meads


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