Feels like teen spirit

Disney's High School Musical graduates to the stage
By IRIS FANGER  |  June 29, 2007
David Nathan Perlow and Addi McDaniel

Forget Tony and Maria, or Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski. The couple of choice for the current adolescent population are Troy and Gabriella, who find true love at the drama-club auditions. Played out in the classrooms, the gym, and the lunch room of East High, their romance forms the plot of High School Musical, the Disney Channel original movie and teen phenomenon that has now been retooled for the stage. The North Shore Music Theatre production opens this Tuesday, and the demand for tickets has been so high that five performances have been added.

Barry Ivan, choreographer and director of the NSMT production, flew to Atlanta for the musical’s stage premiere; “I was astonished at the audience’s reaction,” he days. Ivan, who two weeks ago was named to succeed Jon Kimbell as NSMT’s artistic director and executive producer, is on familiar territory: he’s directed more than 20 musicals at NSMT, he coached Danny, Sandy, and 96 other singer-dancers in a Kansas City production of Grease last summer, and he’s set Tony and Maria singing in a revival of West Side Story at the Deutsche Staatsoper.

In its stage incarnation, High School Musical centers on Troy and Gabriella, the basketball star and the academic whiz kid, who pair off cute over their shared yen to sing. In an attempt to break out of their respective stereotypes, they audition together for the school musical. Written by a fellow student, the musical revises Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, allowing the star-crossed lovers to live, move to Albuquerque, and set up housekeeping. “The film is inclusive of all the subdivisions of high school — the jocks, the cheerleaders, and the brainiacs,” says Ivan. “There’s a bit of competition between these groups, like the Sharks and the Jets.”

Fourteen-year-old Samantha Goober, from Burlington, and 16-year-old Nick Christopher, of Winchester, are among the 11 local high-school students in the 38-member NSMT cast. Christopher points out, “A lot of kids my age, especially living in Massachusetts, don’t see musicals on stage, so they haven’t seen Grease or West Side Story. Everyone watches the Disney Channel.” “It’s scary,” adds Goober.

One refreshing aspect of the movie is the color-blind casting, which also applies to the stage. Goober explains, “That’s how high school is now — we don’t even notice it. Everyone is just together.”

Kate Rockwell, one of the New York–based professionals in the cast, recently survived four weeks on the TV reality show, Grease: You’re The One That I Want, which looked for stars for an upcoming Broadway revival. “It’s great,” she enthuses. “We’re in a dying art form. Because of High School Musical, this huge freakish hit, we can bring the kids to live theater. They’ll want to come back.”

Disney’sHigh School Musical | North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly | July 3-29 | $50-$65 | 978.232.7200

On the Web
North Shore Music Theatre: www.nsmt.org

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