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Review: MT Shorts' HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL Provides a Fun Night of Wholesome Entertainment

The premiere took place on November 15

By: Nov. 24, 2020
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Review: MT Shorts' HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL Provides a Fun Night of Wholesome Entertainment  Image

Zoom Theatre is weird; there's no getting around that. But weird doesn't have to mean bad or awkward. It can also mean brilliantly innovative and wonderfully fun. MT Shorts' HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL premiere on November 15 was just that. Part fundraiser, part show, and totally entertaining the online event had tons of ways to grab and keep attention.

When I first logged in, I was immediately showered in playful images, upbeat music, and a beaming host who welcomed me to the fantastical premiere of HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL. Everything was "high school"-themed with desks, pencils, and notebooks floating around with brightly colored shapes on a lined paper background.

On the left sidebar of my screen were a couple of different "Zoom rooms," or different parts of the Zoom call to explore. While they all looked the same, they each had very different things to offer.

The "theatre" was the home of the hubbub where the main show and pre-show entertainment took place. The "classrooms" were a collection of various pre-show entertainment that had an educational twist to it such as crafting a cocktail to go with the show or hearing the writers talk about their process writing for Zoom.

The "hallway" was a chat roulette where you could be randomly matched with another audience member to meet and greet others watching the show. Finally, the "bulletin board" had a list of upcoming events both from MT Shorts and their partners to make it easy to stay up-to-date on the goings-on.

The name "High School Zoomsical" made me think that I might see some serious Troy and Gabriella action, but it was actually a show about two high school friends connecting at their virtual high school reunion. The editing was full of sharp transitions and clever montages. The performance reminded me of how the movie Unfriended (2014) was shot - the whole show involved watching the main character click around on her computer logging in and out of social media, video chats, and finally a Zoom call.

The music in the show felt like THE LAST FIVE YEARS meets HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES, energetic, contemporary, and full of swooning emotions. The writing felt Disney-esque as well, with lots of easy-to-follow relationships and exposition, lines that worked both as character interaction and an introduction to a transition, and over-the-top sighs from our worn-down leading lady.

All of the singing and underscoring were incredibly welly produced and sounded up to the same quality as most modern-day movie musicals. I found myself sitting there wondering where on earth they could have recorded those tracks during a pandemic. (Probably their closets, right?)

The clever writing and high-value production would have fallen flat without the incredible performances by the star-studded cast. Atlanta native Ryann Redmond (FROZEN, IF/THEN, BRING IT ON) brought to the show her quintessential "awkwardness" that added a relatable level of depth to the main character.

Opposite her, encouraging and no-nonsense best friend Kay Brown and will-they-won't-they (oh-my-gosh-I-hope-they-do-they'd-be-so-cute-together) crush Alan Wiggins shone. All three complemented each other to craft a wholesome triad of bright, primary-colored characters.

The overall show was energetic, cute, and heartwarming. Watching it felt like holding a mug of hot chocolate and putting on a rom-com to escape with.

I never expected to see ensemble dance choreography in a Zoom Theatre show, but here I was watching individual screens bounce and Brady-Bunch around my screen each with dancers inside waving jazz-hands. With wholesome jokes, clever Zoom cinematography, and even more clever Zoom choreography, I escaped into a wonderful world of fun songs and kind characters for the night.

The only gripe I had with this show was that it was just too short! They may be called MT Shorts for a reason but maybe it's time they add a sub-brand of "MT Longs." The show ended after 15 minutes on a cliffhanger and I thought for sure this was just intermission but no - the show was over and it was onto a talkback with the creators.

Greg Kamp (known to Atlanta audiences for his appearance as Jack in NEWSIES in 2018) very humbly accepted the showering of praise he received from the audience at the end of the show. He and MT Shorts co-founder Sarah Ellis took questions about what it's like to create theatre for an online audience, responding frankly about the difficulties of innovating this online show's production.

All in all, HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL was a unique, fast-paced, and very engaging show full of happy thoughts and fun music. I hope to see more like it!

MT Shorts is an award-winning creative production company with a mission to disrupt and rethink how we give voice to an emerging generation of musical theatre creatives.

By producing original musical short films, MTS provides an outlet for new voices to be introduced and seen on a larger scale, taking out much of the risk and challenges involved with mounting a full production, reading, or concert... while all at the same time capitalizing on the resurgence in enthusiasm for musical theatre on screens large and small.

Adding in the ever-increasing demand for short-form content, MT Shorts is able to cast a wide net of viewership, providing the opportunity for those who can't make it to Broadway a chance to see what the up-and-coming generation of artists is creating, all in the palm of their hand.

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