Maybe I'm adamant that HSM2 should remain sexless because my high-school experience was sexless. And peppered with frequent up-tempo dance numbers. Hey, the jazz-choir kids knew how to party. Responsibly.
Who the heck was I kidding? When our editor first asked what "angle" we were taking on this post-pubescent, pre-parental look at HSM2, I told him that, while Sara and I initially assumed that her high-school toil was more musical and mushy than mine, it turned out that I unexpectedly found relatable dynamics. And while that's true in several far-flung and sarcastic senses, I'm compelled to mention some ways in which my adolescent day-to-day hardly paralleled the goings-on at HSM2's East High. For one, my school had a lot more ugly and uncoordinated people than were on stage here. For two, and I know this is a common complaint, there's no mention of what variety of drugs and alcohol fuel this perpetual glee. For three, since when do kids as white as Troy get college-basketball scholarships, and, more important, since when can't dudes named Troy afford college in the first place? Finally, I suspect that one of the prevalent underlying messages — that those who work hard in country-club kitchens will one day become members themselves — is mostly bullshit. Glad I got that off my chest, even if it crushed my colleague's sing-song-y debutante fantasies.
I will cut you. How's that for a debutante fantasy?
Faraone mocks, but at one point I looked over at him during the show's eleventy-billionth reprise of the heartfelt duet/ensemble/broken-record number, "You Are the Music in Me," and he was lost in the moment, mouth agape, eyes shining. For one magical instant, Boston's rough 'n' gruff hip-hop guru was a dreamer, a believer.
Although, I suppose that could have been the aftereffects of two hours spent waiting for me at a townie bar in Beverly, while I battled commuter traffic and cursed the day that Peter Barsocchini dreamed up the HSM franchise.
But with lyrics like "When you dream, there's a chance you'll find/A little laughter/Or happy ever after/Your harmony to the melody/It's echoing inside my head," how could one not buy into "You Are the Music in Me"? Let me rephrase: how could a preteen not buy into it? After all, lest we forget, this show was designed to suck the kids in — even if way too many scenes in this show feature taut, shirtless abs. (After a close encounter in the lobby with a chiseled teenager sporting nothing but lifeguard shorts jogging, Baywatch style, to make his entrance — theater in the round requires all-round access to the stage; in NSMT's case, even through the lobby — I sort of hoped that all of the extra skin was designed to keep the grown-ups awake. Otherwise — wow.) A whole new generation has been inducted into the joys of body dysmorphic disorders and inferiority complexes. Welcome to high school, kiddies!
I suppose the argument can be made that I'm a tad entranced. I mean, how could I not be overwhelmed by loaded similes such as "Like a common thread you're pulling me?" Before I started doing investigative features like this one, I fancied myself a music journalist, so nary a genius note or faux pas slips past me. Which brings me to one insultingly lackadaisical lyric that snagged my ear during the much-discussed "You Are the Music in Me": "It's like I knew you before we met/Can't explain it/There's no name for it." Sure there is — in fact, I can think of several possible descriptive words related to that feeling — namely "destiny," "stalker," and "voyeurism."