High School set to music, a review

Published 7:24 pm Friday, April 25, 2008

Under the direction of Deborah M. Craig, a high octane production will be delivered by Pearl River Central High School students this weekend. The phenomenon known as Disney’s “High School Musical” will delight audiences of all ages.

Everyone gave top shelf performances during the dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, and ovation worthy work is credited to cast members Gavin Lossett, Emily Alexander, Austin Williams, Caitlin Byrnes and Amanda McKay.

Lossett plays Ryan Evans, a high school drama diva gone wild. He wears his character like a second skin, tailor made. Seen in several of the school’s productions, Lossett earns his acting merit badge in this role.

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Alexander as Sharpay Evans nails the role of high school teen queen. The movie “Mean Girls” has nothing on Sharpay who throws insults like a politician. In her role, Alexander delivers them like daggers.

The dulcet tones in the voices of Austin Williams and Caitlin Byrnes, playing Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montezrespectively, blend beautifully in their harmonies. Both actors work well off each other as the star-crossed lovers who only want to be together and get the part in the big upcoming high school play. The chemistry is magical.

The subject matter of the play leaves most of the actors playing characters not too far removed from themselves. Amanda McKay, in one of the few roles that may have been a stretch, is brilliantly funny as the flighty, over the top drama teacher Ms. Darbus.

The big, splashy group numbers are well choreographed by PRCHS senior Jordan Kellar, who has studied dance most of her life. The slick, fast paced moves suit both dancers and the “not so much” dancers. She did a great job of adapting the moves to all skill levels.

Craig did excellent work in directing this massive cast, and impressively found enough male actors to fill all of the roles. In fact, she even roped in the PRCHS varsity basketball team to come in and play themselves. The number “Get Your Head in the Game” with the singing, dancing real-life basketball team is sure to bring the house down and steal the show.

Craig obviously directs with a firm but loving hand. It reflects in the show. She cleverly uses the entire auditorium as a stage, essentially shattering the fourth wall and letting the audience become a part of the action.

Driving, energizing beats are added by the live orchestra. Tara Poolson, conductor and accompanist; Zack Lancaster, bassist; Taylor Ashe, guitarist; Steven Myers, guitarist and Chelsea Thomas, percussionist, contribute by supporting the singers and dancers without overpowering them.

Scene changes are quick and efficient thanks to the “all hands on deck” approach by the crew and the inventive set construction and design credited to Amanda Rogers, Justin Kellar, Felicia Stockstill, Joey Fleming, Nick Romero, Rose Kline, Amber Allison, Amber Allie, Caitlin Byrnes, Deborah M. Craig, Alex Craig and Curtis Craig.

The costumes, by Nancy Bryant of Stitch in Time, are colorful and flattering. They work well in the dance numbers and don’t hinder the movements of the actors.

“High School Musical” is all the drama, angst and joy of your high school years set to music. The stage version is based on the Disney Channel original movie of the same name. From the word go, Disney’s movie struck gold — it took the nation by storm and became an overnight sensation. The live production tours and ice versions are currently traveling across the country. Teens and tweens can’t seem to get enough.

It is the perfect production for high school aged actors. The show is family friendly, fast-paced and fun. Big musical numbers such as “Stick to the Status Quo”, “Bop to the Top” and “We’re all in this together” will have audiences on the edge of their seats and tapping their toes.

Grab your book bag and take your whole family to see Disney’s “High School Musical” at the McNeill Auditorium this weekend, April 25-26, at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee at 1 p.m. Tickets are: $8 adults, $5 students and seniors. The open seating tickets may be purchased at the door.