Tuesday, July 22, 2008

REV: High School Musical

Musical phenomenon comes to the Point
By Claudia Sullivan, The Daily Times, Published July 19, 2008

In 2006, television viewers were swept away by an event from which we still feel the aftershock. It wasn’t an earthquake. It wasn’t a hurricane. It was the Disney Channel television movie original, “High School Musical,” and we (especially if you are younger than 25 years of age) have never been the same.

“High School Musical” has evolved into numerous television competitive shows, has sparked a new fashion tradition, and has people singing and dancing their little hearts out to a series of pop songs that can’t keep you still. “High School Musical” definitely is for the young and young-at-heart.

The Point’s current production, under the direction of talented Point veteran Melissa May-Moncus, is energetic, lively, fun and full of a large cast of inspired young people who fill the night air with big sounds and seem to be having more fun than anyone can imagine.

“High School Musical” is a bit short on plot. Some have compared it to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” but the comparison falls short of any similarity except in this production the high school drama group is preparing a production of “Juliet and Romeo.”

Our young heroes are Troy played by Jamin Reither and Gabriella Montez played by Andrea Deleon. They aren’t exactly “star-crossed” but they do come from different worlds, and there is a hint that their families wouldn’t approve of their budding romance.

They meet. They sing. They fall in love and decide to take their singing love on stage in the (of course) high school musical. Reither and Montez are wonderful. They are both comfortable on stage, at ease with singing love songs and carry the pop-style of big throated, belt-out-the-song just fine. And in the few quiet moments, they are equally believable and on the mark.

Montez, a newcomer to the Point stage, is a delightful surprise. She seems to belong on the stage. Her voice is, for the most part, one of the highlights of the show. Reither, from last year’s “Oklahoma!” has an innocence that works well with the “jock,” big man on campus persona of his character. These two are a bit more Tony and Maria from “West Side Story” than the original comparison. Well done, these two, and well done for the entire cast.

Another little show-stopper comes in the form of young Jonathan Martinez, who plays multiple parts, but who has a remarkable energy on stage and brings a smile each time he enters.

All in all, May-Moncus’ choreography is tireless. The entire cast jumps and dances and wiggles their way through each number as though they had been on the road for months. Where do they get the energy? Ah, yes. Remember, these are high school students, and when there is music and a wide open stage, you just can’t keep them from dancing.

Musical direction under Tim Wilborn is just right. His group provides the right touch, from big all-cast song blasters to the melodious love songs. “High School Musical” doesn’t give us hummable tunes like the more classic American musicals, but the score will certainly get your toes a tappin’ and your feet a movin.’

The Point’s “High School Musical” is a must-see. You can’t help but smile, and although the show misses the nostalgia factor present in other plots set in high school such as “Grease” and “Bye Bye Birdie,” this one does have the band, the back stabbing, the cute cheerleaders and a happy ending.

So go to the river on one of these starlit nights and cheer for the home team (there is a championship basketball game, too), and swoon when the guy gets the girl in spite of the odds, and remember what it was like to have all that energy.

Claudia Sullivan is a professor of drama at Schreiner University.

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