Review: High School Musical 2

Review: High School Musical 2

8 July 2009

Wednesday, 8th July 2009 at Penyrheol Theatre, Gorseinon, Swansea

Disney has moved on since Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in the 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie: in more recent years, the company has proved itself adept at producing shows that appeal to streetwise youngsters with a taste for sharp choreography and contemporary music that positively soars.

The High School Musical franchise is rightly renowned for the way in which it relates to youngsters across the globe, and it is little wonder that those who have enjoyed it on screen and on DVD should want to become involved in live performances.

Enter Jill Williams – principal of Class Act Theatre Productions – who, having already produced a wildly successful stage version of the very first High School Musical, has now embarked upon the sequel, in which students from East High School join the staff of Lava Springs Country Club for their summer vacation.

Several members of the original cast (including Michael Rees, who reprises his role as Troy)are reunited for this lively and absorbing show, which pulls off the rare trick of blending comedy, music and romance in equal measure. The romance element – as one might expect from Disney – is handled in a wholesome and restrained manner, and while the musical numbers are perhaps not quite as memorable or catchy as in the original, they are smartly staged and performed with utter conviction (in any case, there are nods to some of the hit songs which helped the original show to become so popular).

One of Jill Williams' trademarks is the way in which the players on the fringes of the action are constantly in character, reacting and bubbling like animated characters in the background of a Betty Boop cartoon: it is of course brilliant that the lead characters should be so cleverly portrayed, but extending such attention to detail to members of the chorus is a touch of genius – I draw your attention to a scene in which Ms Fulton (Hannah Mason) introduces herself to the kitchen staff. Some of the facial expressions and reactions are priceless – at times it seems that there are real conversations going on, albeit in silence.

This is very much a feelgood show, and it is clear that every single person on the stage is having a whale of a time and – perhaps more importantly – honing their performance skills and increasing their confidence.

Get your “head in the game” (to quote a song from the original) and be sure to snap up tickets for this one before it reaches the end of its run tonight (Saturday). Go Wildcats!

Graham Williams
South Wales Evening Post

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