Adapted from the popular Disney film, the story follows the same path of ‘star crossed lovers’ between the school brainiac Gabriella (Hannah Ringrow) and the jock, Troy (Lachlan Williams). Their unexpected love and hidden talents become an inspiration for the student body to also show their true colours. It’s a highly enjoyable toe-tapper for the whole family, featuring a handful of the most memorable musical numbers from the original.
From curtain up, the cast is highly energetic, demonstrating sharp and polished choreography by Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti. Not compensating on vocal quality in pitch or volume, Musical Director Rachel Bruer-Jones has done well to develop clean and audible lyrics from the cast. Brilliant projection and accents during dialogue makes the show progress seamlessly and adds credibility to the American high school world on view.
Well paired as the villains are Ryan (Ben Francis) and Sharpay (Tayla Coad). Their jiving, conniving and highly theatrical characters beautifully contrast against the gently understated, but wholly genuine personas played by Ringrow and Williams.
Vocally, the cast is strong, led in particular by Francis, Ringrow and Coad. Beautiful duets from the leading pairs are well harmonised and add further opportunity for character development through tempo and choreography. Williams’ vocal skill is more confident during gutsy melodies than the gentler love songs, but his tone melts beautifully with that of his vocal partner, Ringrow.
In what is a truly balanced and highly talented cast list, the supporting characters are entertaining, believable and each entirely different from each other. The highly enthusiastic portrayal of nerds Taylor (Georgia Bolton) and Martha (Naomi Crosby) are an absolute delight, as are the masculine, yet balanced characters displayed by the sporty Chad (Benji Riggs) and Zeke (Aidan Jackson-Drewett).
Credit must be given to the leadership team and particularly of Director Mark Stefanoff, for encouraging and emphasising the talents of each performer. Whether allowing incredible operatic skill as a feature of the audition scene, or the hilarious student’s earthworm impression in the detention scene, everybody on the stage has developed a unique character of their own and is given opportunity to let it shine.
The action on stage outweighs the relatively low-budget, yet highly functional set and lighting. Effective use of levels and space as well as the subtle activity playing away from the protagonists provides depth and complements each scene overall. Costuming is appropriate to the high school setting and is matched beautifully to the characteristics of each performer. Effort is also made to gradually transition costumes throughout the show, to effectively demonstrate the passing of time. The live band is well paced and rightfully, their melodies flow gently underneath the action and vocals on stage.
Tiny technical issues with radio-mics, projectors and voice-back devices are infrequent and largely do not take away from the incredible talent on stage. However, they may be the reason for some mis-matched harmonies which were largely overcome by the cast without drama.
On the whole, AYT’s High School Musical on Stage is polished, full of talent and great value for a family audience. The sentimental message that a great team comes from embracing individual talents is poetically demonstrated by the entire production cast, crew and directors.
Reviewed by Bree Downs-Woolley
Venue: Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 10– 12 October 2013
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (including interval)
Tickets: $20 – $30
Bookings: Book at BASS
Photo credit: Adelaide Youth Theatre