High School Flying Adored

August 2
9:45 AM 2007

I am writing this review with much humility.  I have a ground rule for the contributors that write reviews for my website. They must treat every show fairly even if the review is not going to be favorable and that the review is done in the most professional of criticisms.  I found myself wanting to break my own ground rules before the curtain of Disney's High School Musical went up.  Why? Because there before me was the antithesis of everything I thought theatre was not supposed to be about.  However, by intermission, it became everything I have grown to love about theatre.   The review from this point on is going to sound corny and childish, but for the love of theatre….this show is why children grow to love theatre. 

Disney's High School Musical is something of a phenomenon, for which I now know why as I am listening to Zac Efron singing on the soundtrack while I am writing this.  The television movie premiered in January of 2006 and went on to win two out of six Emmy awards.  The soundtrack was also the number one album of 2006. being the first television soundtrack to reach such heights since Miami Vice a few decades back,  as well as setting records for numbers of downloads on iTunes.

Disney's High School Musical embraces nerds, jocks, gays, chefs and of course the brains, while never once being preachy.  To watch children in the audience applaud a openly gay character in high school is something of a miracle.  All guys and girls had in my generation was A Chorus Line in which the gay character was an outcast.

There is nothing childish or second rate about this touring production.  There is a full orchestra (YES A FULL ORCHESTRA!!!)  which sounds magnificent at the beautifully restored LaSalle Bank Theatre.  There is also a full ensemble which are put to great use with dance numbers a vocal choruses that haven't been present on a Chicago stage for a very long time.

The leads earn their pay and also earn the respect of their biggest fans, the kids.  John Jeffrey Martin as "Troy" and Arielle Jacobs as "Gabriella" win us over with their first "Danny" and "Sandy" duet, and also make the parts their own, not needing to rely on their movie counterparts personas. 

Bobby List as "Ryan Evans" is fabulous as he gives us what a glimpse of how Bob Fosse would have been in High School.  Chandra Lee Schwartz is equally as good as his very "Glinda" sister, "Sharpay".

It was a pleasure to see Ron Bohmer back on the Chicago stage as Coach Bolton.  Mr. Bohmer was the best Phantom of the Opera Chicago has ever seen and had the privilege of playing masked man at the Chicago Lyric Opera house for its' sold out run in the late 1990's.  Mr. Bohmer also haunted the Lyric Opera as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard and Alex in the very successful Robin Phillip's production of Aspects of Love which reopened with Civic Theatre at the Lyric (both opposite Chicago favorite Linda Balgord).

With children embracing a show such as this, the future of musical theatre, nay, maybe even  humanity itself, may just well be in good hands. 

Disney's High School Musical plays through September 2, 2007 at the LaSalle Bank Theatre.  For tickets visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

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Michael J. Roberts Michael is originally from New York where he ran a theatrical production company for many years. Encore Theatrical Productions produced many east coast tours of (read more...)


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