Book by: David Simpatico
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Choreographer: Lisa Stevens
Reviewer: Poppy Helm
Since the original film in 2007, the High School Musical series has fast ascended into the ranks of cult classic. Released in 2008, the originally titled sequel, High School Musical 2, plays at the Opera House on the Manchester leg of it's 2009 tour.
We join the Wildcats as they begin their summer holiday by securing jobs at an exclusive country club. Troy, Gabriella and the rest of the gang have their plans disrupted by the devious Sharpay with her determination to win both the resort talent contest and Troy's affections. Friendships are tested and loyalties stretched as the gang struggle to understand what they want and how to find it together.
With a plot that is more sweet then sophisticated, this is an ideal introduction to the theatre for little ones. This show is at it's best when the cast work together as one; the energetic dance numbers and colourful costumes cannot help but bring out the child within. The ever-changing set (Kenneth Foy) is a triumph of slick simplicity with intelligent design; the vertically hung 'swimming pool' that seems to be viewed from above is particularly effective.
Although the relationship between Troy and Gabriella is a little lacking in chemistry, it doesn't seem to temper the enjoyment of the young audience at which this production is targeted. Lauren Hall is the outstanding performance, throwing herself into the role of the selfish and demanding Sharpay with relish.
Ian Reddington as Mr Foulton provides some almost Basil Fawltey-esque comedy, ensuring that the adults stay as interested as the kids.
The orchestra occasionally overpowers the vocals but, despite this, the cast seem to really hit their stride with the musical numbers in Act 2, delivering a mixture of lively ensemble pieces and downbeat duets.
It's near impossible to restrain even the most stoic audience member from tapping their toes to 'I don't dance' or 'Bet on It'. The finale, complete with beach balls and streamers thrust out into the audience, has the kids jumping in their seats. And as long as they're happy, this show has achieved everything it set out to do.
Runs until Sat 28th Nov