High school’s ‘High School Musical’
- Published: March 15, 2018
The name says it all. The title of this year’s high school musical is exactly that — “High School Musical,” or more specifically, and legally, “Disney’s High School Musical, On Stage!”
For this year’s spring musical, nearly 50 students in grades seven through 12 are participating in a stage production of Disney’s phenomenally popular made-for-TV movie, with performances this weekend and next at Mills Lawn School.
An instant hit, the movie broke Disney records for TV programming. And it opened the door for a pair of sequels, the final of which was debuted in cinemas, along with the release of soundtrack CDs and concert tours by the stars.
When the original “High School Musical” debuted on Disney’s cable channel in the spring of 2006, this year’s graduating seniors were kindergartners. But the continuing popularity of the franchise was inescapable, and the Yellow Springs student body selected the production for staging this year, according to Jovan Terrell, the district’s recently hired theater program producer.
“It was chosen by the students late last year,” Terrell said.
The show is lively and fun, participating students agree. The singular message: Dare to be your full self.
The story’s central conflict arises when teens who are identified for one thing — basketball star, math genius, skate-boarder — want to break out of those definitions and explore other interests.
“I watched it when I was little,” said Greta Kremer, who plays Sharpay Evans, an ultra-competitive, over-the-top theater performer. She said the musical is more of a “caricature of what life is like in high school,” but “there are definitely aspects about it that do ring true — especially [the difficulty of] breaking the norm.”
If there are any villains in the show, it is Sharpay and her twin brother, Ryan, played by Jonah Trillana, in that they are intent on maintaining the status quo — and their place within it. And they go to extreme lengths to keep others from encroaching on their perceived territory.
Kremer, a senior whose first theatrical experience was with Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse, said she is enjoying the role. “It’s interesting playing the villain of sorts,” she said. “Sharpay’s mean, and she is making all these plans. It’s a little bit more challenging for me, and that’s something I enjoy.”
Fellow senior Jonah Trillana said he’s enjoying his part, as well as performing opposite Kremer. “It’s a fun character to play, Tirllana said of the role of Ryan. “There’s a real character arc there.”
He and Kremer have a couple of highlighted song and dance duets that put them in the spotlight. Kremer said she is singing and dancing more than she ever had in the past, but she is enjoying the challenge. Trillana, who gets to cut up a bit, said he is having fun with it.
Trillana, who also participated in YSKP when as well as Yellow Springs Theater Company’s production last summer of “Julius Caesar,” said he had not watched “High School Musical” when he was younger, though he was aware of the phenomenon. He said he finds the characterizations “stereotypical” and “very Disney,” but the overall message is worthwhile: “Breaking out, doing what you want to do regardless of what other people think.”
At the same time, he said he didn’t think that the students at Yellow Springs High School held the same kind of limited expectations for each other as other schools might. “Nobody really cares what you do,” he said.
During a break in a recent rehearsal, stage director Ed Knapp said that in putting the show together, the directors — which include music director Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp and choreographers Elizabeth Lutz and Christina Burks — are working with “the idea that the school has a beat — a heartbeat. It has cliques, but it also has a [singular] heartbeat.”
The story begins when a boy and a girl meet and connect over winter break. When break ends, the boy returns to his school where the girl enters as a new student. The scenario sounds a lot like the opening premise for “Grease,” and Knapp said that the original Disney project was titled “Grease III” when it started. But all similarities to “Grease” diverged from there, and “High School Musical” became a whole other vehicle with a more wholesome and uplifting tone.
For Knapp, it deals with a question that has continuing relevance for teenagers of any era: “Where do I fit in?”
He said he is pleased that so many young people are participating in the show, noting that they echo the message of the musical in that they are involved in multiple areas of the school’s life.
The presentations at Mills Lawn will utilize the gym setting of the performances, Knapp said.
The production also features several large dance numbers that cover a lot of space. Newly purchased theatrical microphones, acquired through a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign, will help with amplification, said producer Terrell.
Knapp said that the content of the show’s larger musical numbers reflect the shift in the school’s culture as the actions of a few inspire more to reflect their full selves, and the school embraces the change.
Senior Kremer concluded: “Ultimately it is about a high school community and their relationship with each other.”
“Disney’s High School Musical, On Stage!” will be presented at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, March 9-10 and 16-17, and 2 p.m. Sundays, March 11 and 18, at Mills Lawn School. For the first time, tickets can be reserved in advance by going online to: http://www.showtix4u.com and searching Yellow Springs. A small fee applies to online purchases. Tickets also will be sold at the door. Cost is $12 general admission and $7 for seniors and students.