Possibly the greatest piece of cinema in recent history, High School Musical shines as a beacon of guidance to all filmmakers who trail in its wake. But did the Just So Society do this deftly executed masterpiece justice in its translation to the Byre stage for On the Rocks? Or did the “status quo” end up a “status so-so”?
In all seriousness, director Sarah Koh provided an vibrant, energetic show, and its flaws, though plentiful, did not mar the brimming Wildcat spirit.
Maybe High School Musical wasn’t the best idea for a low-budget amateur production: its poor script and cringingly earnest lyrics are only excused by the comparatively high production value of the original film. But, in some ways, watching a show clearly crafted with the love and passion of all involved for the movie that brought musical theatre into their lives struck a poignant note (literally: a moving director’s note on the back of the programme resoundingly expressed this sentiment).
Some casting decisions were questionable – but when you see so many people having so much fun on stage, who cares? The stars of the show were undoubtedly Hannah Gilchrist’s ever-sassy Sharpay and Linus Erbach’s evolved Ryan, while of course St Andrews theatre veteran Alice Gold’s hilarious turn as Ms. Darbus goes without saying.
Interestingly though, the main point of hilarity resided in the more minor characters – notably in Becky Lillicrap’s mysterious ‘Alan’. Rarely ever uttering so much as a line, Alan’s deadpan expression provided a comic backdrop to many an expository piece of dialogue. Some would say this ‘overshadows’ the main plot in a couple of cases, but with a storyline so simple and widely known that it has embedded itself into the legend of English-speaking culture, does it really? Bravo to you, Alan. (Or brava Becky, indeed).
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the evening went off without a hitch; there were a few sound problems mainly towards the beginning which occasionally popped up through the rest of the show. This sometimes upset the confidence of the cast in a couple of numbers. However, things soon picked up, and the cast very impressively learned how to manoeuvre around these issues. The musicians themselves sounded great, with instrumentation neither too thick nor thin.
Regarding design, the set seemed to work well for the most part, particularly in the pre-interval number, which even utilised the auditorium itself for Sharpay to strut in frustration. Similarly, the precision lighting used in such instances as the final basketball game was expertly handled.
Overall, this return to East High had its problems, but it must be said that this is not a serious bit of theatre. And if that’s the case, then why should it be taken so seriously? High School Musical was a whirlwind of fun and nostalgia, and truly I’m quite envious I wasn’t involved. Maybe I’ll crash the cast party on Tuesday night (watch out, Wildcats).