My initial plan was to abstain from getting all Bukowski-meets-Thompson in my review of a suburban play for youngsters, but Sara mentioned that I pre-gamed, so an explanation is in order. Crack reporters that we are, the two of us traveled to Beverly on the Monday following this past week's three-day snowstorm. While she was stuck on I-93, I was stranded at the Press Box bar, where I spent about six Budweisers waiting for a taxi. Naturally, I have no complaints about it; not to act high-school cool and all, but my buzz definitely added to the excitement. No one should have to sit through this production sober.

Well, I did, and, though a few times I had to restrain myself from sucking on the patch of Faraone's sweater where he'd spilled beer all over himself, I, too, was entranced. In high school, I was never a Troy or a Gabriella or a Sharpay — those kids were the golden children of Middlesex County, and I was a dumpy choir nerd. Since HSM2 doesn't feature any characters who love flannel dresses and are into madrigals, I really didn't have anyone to identify with, so, instead, I allowed myself to be whisked away into the enchanting bubble of Disney teenage idealism, where outfits are sassy, basketball scholarships are aplenty, and the only conflicts arise over who's singing what at the country-club talent show.

Maybe I didn't get to sing out loud in high school, but, thanks to newfound, corporate-churned inspiration, I'm singing out loud right now. In my heart, that is.

Faraone, you are the music in me.

Sara is so cheery that it almost pains me to swing a wrecking ball through this quasi-review. But after watching her teeter on the cynical side, I don't feel all that badly. Prior to my recent introduction to the HSM racket, I blamed the '90s teen drama My So-Called Life for making teenage girls behave like assholes. But times change, so I'm enrolling in the school that attributes all that is wrong in the United States (and everywhere else this virus spreads) to the cornball morality endorsed by HSM. Other than the part where Troy takes $50 under the table for caddying, this script has no didactic value. Sorry to break it to any kids reading this — especially those still recovering from the recent discovery that Santa isn't real — but the lower and upper crusts rarely bake together. Instead, hot rich (and poor) chicks marry rich dudes who get wealthier by exploiting the same chumps who served them gimlets at their country clubs as teenagers. And even if the cute welfare kid gets the scholarship and the trust-fund girl, she's guaranteed to drive him nuts and hold his birth status over homeboy's dome until he either dies or busts in on wifey smothering the groundskeeper with her implants. Set a beat to that and you'll have something for the whole family — or at least for the half-wasted misanthrope who takes his job reviewing local youth theater way too seriously.

Sara Faith Alterman and Chris Faraone make beautiful music together. They can be reached, respectfully and respectively, at salterman@phx.com and cfaraone@phx.com.

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