For the 10 of you out there whose school-aged kids haven’t seen High School Musical, Disney's 2006 made-for-TV movie, here’s the plot: brainy girl meets jock boy and they hit it off. Brain and jock decide to audition together for the lead roles in their high school’s musical, and chaos ensues at East High as various cliques plot to keep the social order intact. There’s a happy ending, of course.
Seattle Children's Theatre's stage adaptation of the smash hit is funny, smart and well-cast. On opening night, the energy onstage led to a spontaneous standing ovation at the end, and the HSM experts I brought with me, three girls, ages 7, 8 and 10, grinned and cackled throughout. So if you’re not sure; if this seems too commercial, too teen, too Disney . . . get over it and get tickets quick. It’s a fun, energetic show with positive messages about real friendship and having the courage to stand up for what you want.
SCT veteran Jayne Muirhead, as drama teacher Ms. Darbus, is terrific. Her Ms. Darbus has heart and depth beneath her sweeping manner and clipped diction, and her arch one-liners got the biggest laughs of the night. As her fellow staff member and nemesis (and Troy’s father) Coach Bolton, John Patrick Lowrie is suitably brusque and dismissive, but the chemistry between the two actors suggests a soft spot for each other in spite of their sniping.
Jason Kappus (Troy Bolton) has a pleasant singing voice and is a believable good-at-heart teenage jock, physically confident but slightly goofy. Kasey Nusbickel’s Gabriella Montez is also believable as somewhat retiring girl with a strong side. Both of them lack the disturbing plasticity of their movie counterparts. The Velvet Fog (Mo Brady), a character added to the stage adaptation to tie the musical numbers together, is a school DJ who reads announcements and narrates the action. Watch him — he’s always doing something interesting onstage.
As the tyrants of East High, the showbiz sibling duo Sharpay and Ryan Evans, Khahn Doan and Don Darryl Rivera are very funny. Dressed in increasingly outrageous color-coordinated outfits (by Jeanette deJong), they practice cheesy dance routines, spy on their fellow students and squabble furiously.
Standout musical numbers include the basketball-themed "Get’cha Head in the Game" and "Stick to the Status Quo." Clever staging sometimes has various groups acting out their scenes simultaneously. The final scene in which the basketball team plays a championship game, the nerds compete in the science decathlon, and Sharpay and Ryan audition for the play — all onstage at once — works well.
Edie Whitsett’s sets suggest the drabness of a public high school, with muted colors and a realistically scuffed gym floor. The only jarring element is the rooftop garden where Troy and Gabriella meet to talk. It squeaked distractingly on opening night, and the actors, standing high off the ground, towered over audience members in the first several rows.
If you go
High School Musical opened Sept. 14 and runs through Nov. 24. Shows are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., with additional Thursday shows Oct. 11-25. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up, although younger kids will enjoy the music and choreography even if the intricacies of high school social life fly over their heads. There’s a Family Date Night Dinner on Friday, Oct 12, and an ASL-interpreted show on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 206- 441-3322 or visit www.sct.org.