By Bob Evans
Disney fans find all the excitement of the TV phenomenon of “High School Musical,” a TV show that did what Saturday Night Fever did for the disco-crowd in the late 1970s as all the friends, music, and “drama” play out in live-action at Shawnee Mission’s Theatre in the Park beginning Aug. 3 and running for two weekends.
“Disney’s High School Musical 1 & 2″ excites and electrifies the massive amphitheater crowd as a host of young performers cavort and work their way through the music and dance-filled show at TTIP under the direction of Guy Gardner. As expected, Gardner’s shows really move and feature sharp choreography. His pairings with musical director James Levy always feature high-powered productions and non-stop entertainment through powerful vocals and precision dance.
After the High School Musical made its way cosmic debut on Disney Channel, viewers began learning the lyrics and dance moves to perform along with the TV cast. Just like the disco phase, viewers learned the choreography and the rest is history. “High School Musical 1 & 2″ combines the two separate shows into one jam-packed show with high energy and great performances by a very young, but talented cast. The adults in the room (or theatre) are Andrea Hobley and Peter Leondedis in his TTIP debut. Other than that, the cast is under 30 years of age, and most are in late teens.
The spirit and energy this young cast brings just emits joy to the audience. One can tell they want to perform, work well together, and produce family-friendly entertainment. (I think the strongest language was “butt.”)
The diversity of the cast stands out. This cast looks like a real classroom. They are all colors, all sizes, and all unique. This production gives so many actors opportunity to display their talents.
According to the TTIP website: “It’s the first day after winter break at East High. The Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians and Skater Dudes find their cliques, recount their vacations and look forward to the new year. Basketball team captain and resident jock, Troy, discovers that the brainy Gabriella, a girl he met singing karaoke on his ski trip, has just enrolled at East High. They cause an upheaval when they decide to audition for the high school musical, led by Ms. Darbus. Although many students resent the threat posed to the “status quo,” Troy and Gabriella’s alliance might just open the door for others to shine as well.”
“HSM 1 & 2″ fortifies the message that teamwork, trust, support, and standing up for honored values matter–even in high school. The show teaches, through music and dance, that being kind and considerate helps achieve goals.
“‘HSM’ is about being there for each other, and that this cast was the epitome of that,” Guy Gardner said. “Consistently coming early to help each other, creating safe spaces, and really proving that generation is the future of the world – and it’s positive, fun, and hard working.”
Act II continues the same theme, but during summer vacation at a luxury country club where the owner’s daughter again tried to manipulate others. Again, the message booms, loud and clear, stick together, work together, triumph over adversity. “We’re All in This Together” continues as the main theme of the story.
For the older audience, probably there to see their children and grandchildren perform, the shows bring back memories of the really old, black and white, “backyard” musicals of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland where there was always an upcoming show, problems about the show, and the everything will turn out OK and true love wins.
As a reviewer, (and an older reviewer) I remembered those shows as this production developed in front of me. The story line remains simple and uncluttered. The plot does not really matter. And you just know that everything will turn out just fine.
What did stand out–the movement/choreography in the show. One would not know that the cast are not trained dancers. They move with precision and finesse. Practiced, perfected, polished, they perform above expectations.
Two performers that stand out are Alex Gumminger as the dance focus of a big dance number at the end of Act I. He had the crowd focused on him and drew some of the biggest applause of the Act. Another young actor who can steal any scene, Philip Licata, added flair to each scene and dance routine. Watch for him as Ryan.
Opening night included a few sound problems, but those will be fine-tuned and corrected for subsequent performances. Other than that, the creative/technical team created a beautiful show.
“High School Musical 1 & 2″ is directed and choreographed by Guy Gardner. The rest of his production crew are: Musical Director, James Levy; Accompanist, Roberta Wilkes; Costume Designer, Alexandra Blasi; Props Designer, Amanda Albert; Hair and Make-up Designer, John Hollan; Associate Choreographer, LB; Scenic Designer, Doug Schroeder; Lighting Designer, Elizabeth Kennell; Sound Designer, Chase Roush; Stage Manager, Rebekah Grieb; Asst. Stage Manager, Emilie Christian; Asst. Stage Manager, Alex Leondedis.
The cast for “High School Musical 1 & 2 are: Troy Bolton, Zane Champie; Gabriella Montez, Anna Synek; Sharpay Evans, Mia Valentine; Ryan Evans, Phillip Licata; Chad Danforth, Josh Wheeler; Zeke Baylor, Hewleek McKoy; Jack Scott, Maddox Bane; Taylor McKessie, Klarissa Sheffield; Martha Cox, Nikki Tatge; Kelsi Nielsen, Mia McManamy; Ms. Darbus, Andrea Hobley; Coach/Fulton, Peter Leondedis.
Brainiacs, Kara Mason, Rose Marie Maddock, Alex Gumminger, Carrigan Rohach, Evan Wohlenhaus, Jackson Tomlin; Cheerleaders, Maggie Mulligan, Anna Mikesic, Mia Vaught,
Millie Bell; Athletes, Beth Anderson, McKenna Lewis, Austin Shively, Justin Schoenfeld, Lina Sattarin; Colten Honigman, Moses Tinio, Alyssa Winters; Skaters, Elaine Watson, Midi Tozier,
Dalton Homolka, Emerson Pereira, Joh Alden, Jaden Castinado: Thespians, Anna Murrow, Katie Noll, Jacob Wray, Zoe London, Joel Walley, Jacob Jackson; Yell Leaders, Eli Hoedl, Jerry Birts, Collin Montgomery, Sam Hesman.
“Disney’s High School Musical 1 & 2″ continues through next weekend at Theatre in the Park. More information, a full synopsis, and ticketing can be found at the Theatre in the Park website. Chair seating is available to purchase for those who do not favor sitting on the ground or toting their own chairs. The park features free parking. Food, beverages, coolers, blankets and picnics make the environment easily affordable for families. Concessions are available inside the park. More information on concessions can also be found on the website.
Tags: “Disney’s High School Musical 1 & 2″, Theatre in the Park, Shawnee Mission Park, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment