AS you get older you forget just how much noise a small child can make. When that small child becomes hundreds of small children then you get that high pitched hum that vibrates around swimming pools on hot days in the summer holidays.
It is called excitement, unbridled joy, and last night the Alexandra theatre was awash with it as theDisneyChannelphenomenaHigh SchoolMusical 2 started its run for the Christmas season to a sea of well-scrubbed and well enchanted faces.
As the children still had that look of excited wonder as they left it looks as if the Alex has found itself a festive hit, and why not?
This is not the best musical ever written, nor does it have much in the way of memorable music while the script is predictable and all in all it is a bit sugary and lightweight but it is full of energy, packed with enthusiasm and, let’s be honest, it’s great fun.
It is slick, very professional, well performed and infectiously entertaining and if a few hundred kids go home after each performance thinking a theatre is the most magical place on earth then it is a show worth its weight in gold. Another generation has been hooked.
The franchise is the most successful in the Disney Channel’s history and the original made for TV movies rival events such as World Cups in the number of viewers – although the World Cup probably sells more beer.
The original had a hint of Romeo & Juliet go to the local comp via West Side Story about it withTroyand Gabriella in rival factions before it all comes right in the end.
With a smash hit on their hands High School Musical 2 was a formality followed by 3 and now 4 is in the making.
The current stage musical follows the movie with spoilt rich brat Sharpay Evans, a deliciously bitchy Lauren Hall, persuading daddy to employ basketball starTroy, a clean cut Liam Doyle, at his country club for the summer so she can have him all to herself.
Troythough persuades Mr Fulton to employ Gabriella, sensitively played by Nikki Mae, and the rest of the gang from school.
And hurrah for Mr Fulton, played by Ian Reddington, (pictured left) who was a godsend for us oldies in the audience – he even had a moustache. It was reassuring to know there was at least one member of the cast old enough to shave regularly.
“Children will love it and so will their parents.”
High School Musical 2 – (a not so guilty secret)
Before this review begins I have three things that should probably be declared.
Firstly, I am young (well youngish – I still make it into the 29-34 banding in questionnaires).
Secondly, I am a man. (A cage-fighting, hairy, modern day Sean Connery I am not, but a man I most definitely am – I like football. I don’t very much like musical theatre)
Thirdly, I am a fan of the High School Musical franchise. (In fact, I’m so much of fan I can even call it HSM!)
Yes, yes, yes I realise that points two and three don’t necessarily dovetail with each other. And yes, I also realise that point one puts me well outside the catchment area of the HSM fan base demographic. But I don’t care. I think it’s great; In fact I’m a hop, skip and a stage school jump away from blowing my entire disposable income on the avalanche of HSM goods flooding the shops.
The films are fun, fluffy and accessible. They don’t tax either your brain or your moral compass, instead planting American earworms that live FOREVER.
So, it was with a degree of trepidation that I approached the Alexandra Theatre to watch High School Musical 2; for what would ways could they devise to sully my cherished movie franchise?
The good news is . . . none. The spirit ofEastHigh Schoolis fully intact. In fact, it was the most fun I’ve had in the theatre for a long time. There isn’t Shakespeare’s dialogue, Brecht didactic agenda nor Gilbert and Sullivan’s songs. But there was more fun than you could poke a wildcats cheerleader twirling baton at.
The stage show maintains the ultra positive, happy go lucky feel of the screen. The teen angst on show is of the diet variety and the baddies of the piece (a superb Ian Reddington, Loren Hall and Matt Kennedy – aka Mr Fulton, Sharpay and Ryan, respectively) are really not so bad, In fact, away from the smoochy conundrums facing Gabriella and Troy, it is these three characters which provide the winning formula to the piece. They keep the humour levels high and also mean that the event does not fall into sugar overload.