Liliana Potter reviews High School Musical, staged as part of On The Rocks at the Byre Theatre.
High School Musical needs no introduction. A beloved of many since the film's initial release in 2006, the Byre Theatre was absolutely buzzing on the opening night of the Just So Society’s production.
This Disney classic tells a love story between high school jock Troy Bolton, and the nerdy newcomer Gabriella, as they defy the ‘status quo’ to sing in the - wait for it - high school musical. It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, so I was already excited for a fun slice of 2000s escapism.
This adaptation included some fresh additions, including a radio announcer character (an ebullient Jet Chew, who would have perhaps benefited from slowing down his rapid-fire delivery) alongside old favourites such as Ms. Darbus (the ever-wonderful Alice Gold). Overall, the cast worked heroically within the confines of what is, even compared to the film, an immensely gauche script. As East High’s central couple, Beckett Hunecke and Bethan Evans as Troy and Gabriella had a sweet, shy chemistry. They were well supported by their earnest friends (lead by Sarah Johnston and Daniel Heidland) and foes alike; here, Linus Erbach’s hard-done-by Ryan not only jazz squares, but hits death drops. ‘Fabulous’ indeed! Alongside Hannah Gilchrist’s remarkably film-accurate Sharpay, the two provide a school-ruling power duo.
Clearly, staging High School Musical was a dream fulfilled for the production team, and it was frustrating to see their hard work overshadowed by some issues. I felt bad for the male actors, who sometimes struggled with pitch in the tenor-heavy score. First night microphone hiccups are also expected, but it was a shame nonetheless to lose chunks of dialogue to this.
These issues were best overcome with the timeless adage “We're All in This Together” - the show thrived in its lively ensemble numbers, propelled by the boundless energy of the chorus and band. An energy boost throughout could have taken the smaller numbers to the same level.
If your On the Rocks checklist involves nostalgia, basketball choreography, and an overall fun night, High School Musical: On Stage! does the job nicely. I’m wishing everyone the best of luck in shooting onwards and upwards from first night nerves and unfortunate teething issues.