Disney High School Musical – NOW Productions

Disney High School Musical – NOW Productions

This production had dual casts in the principal roles. In the interest of fairness to all, we reviewed both casts. Brian Godfrey reviewed the Flyin’ cast and Terry Mountstephen reviewed the Soarin’ cast.

Flyin’ Cast

In 2006 Disney made a telemovie High School Musical that launched the acting career of ‘heart-throb’ Zac Efron and was so popular that it spawned two more films, a television series and a stage musical. With a storyline that borrows a little from “Grease” (boy and girl meet over a school break and then find out that they are at the same high school), “Bring It On” (cheerleaders), “Dirty Dancing” (without the Dirty bit) and “The Brady Bunch” version of high school (good clean fun where you learn a little between playing sports and singing and dancing).

The plot revolves around Basketball Captain Troy Bolton and Maths Genius Gabriella Montez falling in love and trying out for the school musical (a musical version of Romeo and Juliet but where both live at the end – hey, it is Disney after all). The only obstacle in their way is perineal star Sharpay Evans and her not so willing accomplice, twin brother Ryan.

Director Joe Russell makes sure that this production zings along with great pace and energy with just a tad too much exaggerated acting from some of the cast at times for my liking – but I admit that this is my personal taste; the audience lapped it up. Russell’s set design is fairly simple allowing for fast, flowing scene changes with no fuss nor muss.

Musical Direction by Robert Young and vocal coaching by Maisy Jo are spot on with some beautiful harmonies issuing from the cast. Mandy Russell and Maisy Jo’s choreography is suitably physical for the most part and well executed by the whole cast. The spectacular (and perhaps world’s longest) curtain call with what ends up with about 30 something cast on stage is brilliantly conceived choreography; not to mention the successful challenge of getting cast to ‘dribble’ basketballs in perfect synch during the number “Get’cha Head In The Game”.

I reviewed the Flyin’ Cast and was impressed with the energy levels and talent that seemed to abound in them. Shanee Proctor was a lovely Gabriella. She was sweet but maintained a strong presence at all times. Teresa van der Hoek made a marvellous spitefully uppity Sharpay while Kyle Mobbs showed his dance skills off well and was a delight as twin brother Ryan Evans.

Jordan Pitt playing Chad in both casts is the ideal American high school student and is very believable; Jessie Rouse, also portraying her character Kelsi (the author of the musical version of “Romeo and Juliet” ) in both casts nicely underplays her role that sometimes one forgets she is there (as is meant to be). She also plays the keyboard on stage live – the rest of the music is a backing tape.

Lily Cotton as the almost Greek Chorus school DJ Jack Scott makes the most of her role and really gets the audience going every time she appears; and Caitlyn Montague as Ms Darbus is the perfect stereotypical flowing, over-dramatic Drama teacher – her arm wafting is spot on. While the Ensemble is great, special mention must be given to Owen Fagan. His characterisation is hilarious but could become distracting. However he shows great promise and will surely be playing leads soon – watch out for his ‘frog’ in the Detention scene.

I have left the best for last. James Hester as Troy Bolton was excellent! Everything about his portrayal was spot on and he had us barracking for him from the offset. A fine performance indeed.

The Flyin’ cast certainly did fly and were certainly all in it together – taking the audience on an energetic, fun filled ride with them.

Soarin’ Cast

The Shedley Theatre buzzed with excitement as an enthusiastic audience looked forward to seeing the 36 members of the Soarin’ Cast of High School Musical take the stage for their final performance. In the lead roles, Riley Mobbs as Troy Belton and Saskia Jones as Gabriella Montez engaged the audience with their portrayal of the budding romance between their characters. Their on-stage chemistry felt genuine, and their voices blended harmoniously.

Cameron Walker commanded attention in his portrayal of Ryan Evans, skilfully navigating the character’s journey towards independence and self-discovery. Walker’s charisma and talent were undeniable. He showcased Ryan’s kind-hearted nature underneath his more flamboyant exterior. Jessie Rouse delivered an outstanding performance as Kelsi Nielsen, seamlessly transitioning from a shy, bullied character to a confident and talented musician. Rouse’s ability to play the piano live on stage added an extra layer of authenticity to her portrayal, showcasing her versatility as a performer.

Kaylee Vincent embraced the flamboyant and dramatic persona of Ms.Darbus, delivering exaggerated gestures and expressive facial expressions that added depth to the character’s larger-than-life presence on stage. Lily Cotton brought energy and charm to the role of Martha Cox, impressing audiences with her dancing prowess. Alyssa Faranda delivered a strong performance as Taylor McKessie, showcasing her triple-threat abilities in singing, acting, and dancing, while authentically portraying Taylor’s intelligence, confidence, and empathy. Faranda adeptly conveyed Taylor’s determination and drive, as well as her warmth and loyalty to her friends. Noteworthy too, was the performance of 14-year-old Zachary Occhiuto as Zeke Baylor. Occhiuto’s singing and acting were commendable. One of the standout moments of the night came during “Stick to the Status Quo”, where the ensemble executed polished harmonies and exuded infectious energy. Whilst the performance was generally of a high standard, there were occasional moments when cast members seemed to step out of character, detracting slightly from the overall immersion of the experience.

Overall, the Soarin’ Cast of High School Musical gave a vibrant and captivating performance that left the audience thoroughly entertained.

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