As I'm sitting in the enormous theater-in-the-round NSMT (which just this past week announced that it would need to raise $4 million by the spring or it would be forced to close — hey, now that sounds like a story that Disney can get behind! Maybe the lovable little theater-that-could should put on a show to raise the money, and a grizzly old benefactor with a heart of gold but nobody to love can sprinkle the troubled nonprofit with cash!), I can't help but have my own flashbacks. I, too, once spent a summer as hired help bandying about a country club, executing mundane tasks with the enthusiasm that only a broke teenager can muster. I hated my boss, I had a crush on the boy with the dimples, and, sometimes, when no one else was around, I hummed softly to myself, imagining that a synthesized soundtrack swelled beneath me as my voice soared.
(You're right. I didn't have a lot of friends. But what I did have was a song in my heart and, after a while, cash in my pocket.)
Actually, the genius about HSM2 is that it appeals to adults as much as it does their snot-nosed spawn. The sole character over the tender age of 16 is the evil boss, Mr. Fulton, who cracked a joke about the "Island of Misfit Toys" that I, as an old-school Yukon Cornelius super fan, was, surely, the one person in the house to appreciate. And, of course, there are the tiny details that only a grown-up, or, in Faraone's case, a dirty-old-man-in-training, would notice, as evidenced by his beer-drenched whisper when Sharpay bent over during a dance number: "Dude, I think that girl has a tramp stamp!"
She does have some doggy-style dûcor etched into her upper backside, and, pending confirmation that she's old enough to secure a permission slip for said tattoo, I'll even go so far as to say that the North Shore incarnation of Sharpay gives this old dog a bone. However, while my libido is much more satisfied than it should be at a children's play, for a highbrowed lowlife such as me, there's dangerously little chuckle fodder here. Sure, I adult-laughed at the line about W-2s and other mundane grown-up paperwork, as I did when one character hyperbolically commented that he's frightened by elevator music, but that was mostly it. There are no SpongeBob-esque acid-trip moments, or surreptitiously psychedelic stabs that made me wonder how many rips of amyl nitrate the director pulled before green-lighting the final dance routine. The only hope for hilarity is to appreciate lyrics like "We've got to work, work, work this out" for their innuendo value.
Gross, dude. Can't you appreciate HSM2 simply for what it is? Watered-down, cheesed-up, sexless diversion? (Sounds like something to treat with an antibiotic, actually.) Yes, the plot is formulated to the letter, the music painfully A-B-A-B, bridge, chorus. But every generation needs good, clean fun to counter the furious sensuality of tempestuous pop stars. As the counterbalance to hot messes like Britney Spears, HSM2 is to contemporary pop culture as Gidget was to Elvis, as Donny and Marie were to the Sex Pistols, as Herbie: Fully Loaded Lindsay Lohan was to "always completely loaded" Lindsay Lohan. This wretchedly simple little song-and-dance machine is a breath of fresh air compared with the garbage that most kids are trying to emulate. So some little boy in Cambridge wants to throw on a jaunty cap and coo about how fabulous everything is, just because his fictional twinkie hero Ryan does the same? Better that than getting drunk and slinging racial slurs like fastballs, as some "role models" for the current young'uns seem to enjoy doing.