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'High School Musical' live sequel a class act


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's easy for adults to forget how the world looks to tweens. Troy and Gabriella's G-rated potboiler relationship problems, and the cartoonish machinations of Sharpay, are all fresh and new for the tween fans of Disney's “;High School Musical”; series. And, never mind the content, if Army Community Theatre's production of “;High School Musical 2 on Stage!”; helps sell island tweens on live theater, it will be one of the season's most significant shows.

Coco Wiel, director of ACT's production of “;High School Musical on Stage!”; last year, returns to direct the sequel. Philip Amer Kelley is back to choreograph the big dance numbers. Credit Wiel with casting within the correct age demographic. Almost every member of the ACT cast is high school age or younger, and they're a talented team.

The story picks up where “;High School Musical”; leaves off. Troy (Seth Lilley) needs a summer job to earn money for collage. Sharpay (Jana Souza) arranges a job for him at the country club her parents own. Troy refuses to take it unless the basketball team and their female friends are hired, too. Mr. Fulton (Shah J. Bento), the club's manager, has orders to hire Troy “;at all costs,”; and so he hires all of them — including Gabriella (Kayla Kashimoto).

               

     

 

'HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 ON STAGE!'

        » Where: Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter
       

» When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 12

       

» Cost: $15 and $20 adults; $12 and $15 children

       

>> Info: 438-4409 or www.armytheatre.com

       

» Note: Valid vehicle registration, proof of insurance and individual photo ID may be required for admission to base.

       

Sharpay doesn't have the power to force Fulton to fire Gabriella and the others, but she has power enough to order him to make their jobs as difficult as possible. She then cuts Troy out of the group by having him promoted to “;junior golf pro,”; making him her personal caddy and promising him that her father will give him a university scholarship if he sings with her instead of with Gabriella in the country club talent show.

Souza does an impressive job taking her portrayal of the relentlessly self-absorbed teenage tyrant to an appropriate level of cartoonish excess. It is one of the best such performances since Lisa Matsumoto originated the role of Da Wicked Queen.

Bento's finesse in delivering veiled insults and speaking with acid-etched irony makes him another comic asset — albeit one tweens might not comprehend.

Vincent Fitzgerald (Ryan) reprises his role as Sharpay's long-abused brother but has more to do this time. Ryan changes sides, helps the Wildcats win a key ballgame and then leads them in rehearsing a new act for the talent show that doesn't include Troy. The performance brings Fitzgerald a big step closer to playing a romantic lead in a future ACT musical.

Weil, Kelley and musical director Daren Kimura make the most of the visual opportunities provided by the big song-and-dance number. They reach their zenith in a gloriously tacky faux-Hawaiian number staged with a giant pink tiki and dancers manipulating large masks and fish puppets. (The number, “;Humuhumunukunukuapua'a,”; was not in the original movie, but is on the DVD.)

The gymnastic skills of Leilani Canapino (Martha) and twin “;pool boys”; Simon and Timothy Rowlands add eye-catching impact in other numbers.

Lilley spent much of opening night hobbled by insufficient volume on his microphone. He and Kashimoto also suffer from the unavoidable handicap imposed by the material. Most of the songs don't say much, and go on much longer than necessary saying it.