Disney’s High School Musical on Stage!

August 12, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Class act

Brunton Theatre: Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 AugReview by Martin Gray

‘Get your head in the game!’ That’s the message of one of the big numbers in Disney’s much-loved High School Musical, and it’s certainly one the Kids From Musselburgh have taken on board.

The Brunton’s latest youth company production shines with talent and commitment, from the opening number to the big finale.

A scene from High School Musical.

The story is a simple one, with school basketball star Troy and smart cookie Gabriella hoping to break out of their supposedly fixed roles and try something new – play the leads in a high school musical production of Juliet & Romeo (it’s a feminist thing, and why not?).

Their pals, though, have a hard time dealing with the threat to the status quo and try to tear them apart. Then there’s brother and sister act Sharpay and Ryan, who believe they have a divine right to every lead part going. Further pressure comes from the coach, who happens to be Troy’s dad, and very dramatic drama teacher Ms Darbus, who detests sport and loves giving out detentions.

Can Troy make Ms Darbus’s audition when it’s on at the same time as the big basketball game? The very same time Gabriella is meant to be in the final of a calculus quiz…

The story wouldn’t work in a UK setting because we don’t have the American High School culture of cliques. Jocks, Cheerleaders, Brainiacs, Skaters, Drama Club Kids… even after decades of watching the likes of Heathers, Mean Girls and Glee it all remains deeply weird.

owned the stage

But all that US pop culture means our children pretty much leave the womb with North American vowel sounds – there wasn’t an unconvincing accent among Cast B, who owned the stage at the production we saw.

Joseph Tulloch and Macey Wilson display an easy chemistry as school god Troy and new girl Gabriella, reunited after meeting for the first time on vacation (tell you more, tell you more?). There’s a sweetness to the pairing that convinces us young love really is in the air, and they do a fine job with their duets.

A scene from High School Musical.

Wilson is probably the strongest singer on stage, while Tulloch shows that even an MVP can have a gauche side, an appealing goofiness. But all the players do a great job of selling their parts – such as Ollie Perren as Ms Darbus, and Robyn Devine as the spiky, needy Sharpay. Angus Taylor is terrific as twin Ryan – think leprechaun crossed with Liza Minnelli – while Roland Jenkinson has the authority to play Troy’s dad, who insists on calling him by his surname.

Also terrific are James MacDonald as No2 jock Chad, Lulu Perren as super smart Taylor, Katie McKenzie as budding composer Kelsi and Harris Russell as Zeke, the basketball player who’d as soon be tossing cake dough as balls.

Russell is especially good at nailing the gags, but there’s also a very funny audition scene in which the freaks and geeks of East High show why they shouldn’t be in Juliet & Romeo.

a treat throughout

Murdo Jack and Eve McLean play school radio people Jack and Jackie, there to help scene transitions with their announcements. They basically have to walk on, climb up the steps of the simple, serviceable set, deliver a line each, and walk off again, and they deserve a big hand for making the most of a tough gig.

The squad of cheerleaders are the spine of several scenes, shaking their pom-poms like their lives depend on it, while the background players populate the school with pizzazz – the choral numbers are a treat throughout.

By close of play, young love triumphs and everyone realises that you really can be anyone you want to be. It’s a great message, impressively delivered by the 65-strong young cast who took part in the two-week summer school led by the Brunton’s professional production team, in partnership with Tommie Travers and David Ross.

We’re all in this together, as High School Musical’s best-known number insists. It’s a maxim the gang have obviously taken on board, producing a joyous, breezy show of which they should be very proud.

Running time: one hour 45 minutes (including interval)
Brunton Theatre, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA
Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 August.
Two shows daily: 2pm & 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

ENDS

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Comments (2)

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  1. Yvonne says:

    I totally loved this show had us all foot tapping & clapping through out .

  2. Rowan McDonnell says:

    I have known Macey Wilson since a young age, when she first got into theatre back in England before she moved, she is absolutely incredible and a shining star that is going to go so far in this industry. She is absolutely unstoppable 🙂