Okay… first off, let’s address the elephant in the room: Tautology. It’s a phrase which describes itself. Think Yogi Berra and “It’s deja vu all over again”. And this concludes your English lesson for the day.
Why the fancy word? Because it’s both fun and descriptive. On Sunday, I went to see a group of high school student perform a musical about a group of high school students performing a musical–or, at least, all the drama that lead up to the… well… drama.
Originally a Disney movie that spawned multiple sequels and a TV show, the basics of the story are pretty simple:
With a plot described by the author and numerous critics as a modern adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, High School Musical is a story about two high school juniors from rival stereotypical cliques. The protagonists are Troy Bolton–the basketball team captain–and Gabriella Montez–a shy transfer student excelling in math and science. Together, they try out for the lead parts in their high school musical, and this causes division among all the school’s students.
The Rules of Review
- What are they trying to do?
- How well did they do it?
- Was it worth the doing?
High school performing arts have three main goals:
- Expose students to the performing arts–whether that’s putting them on stage or teaching them backstage skills.
- Teach them self-confidence (on-stage or backstage, a live show needs people who are confident in what they’re doing)
- Entertain the audience.
1 & 2
Only those who have worked with these students from the start can say how much they learned, how far they progressed, and how much they grew in both skills and confidence. Having been one of those kids on stage, however, I’m going to suggest that it’s “a lot”. And that, quite honestly, is the most important thing.
While they may not be ready for Broadway quite yet, the cast and crew of High School Musical absolutely entertained the crowd. Applause after each scene is to be expected. The real gauge is how often the audience reacts to the little things. The approximately 300 people in the seats (a very good house for a Sunday matinee) were actively reacting with chuckles and reactions.
Everyone in the cast gave a solid performance for this level of work. You could tell that everyone on that stage–experienced or new–was giving their all. Two actors, however, stood out to me: Connor Skrum and Elaina Hatley.
Hatley, as the the school radio announcer Jacki Scott, almost stole the show. Her pre-show announcement–adapted to talk about COVID-19 precautions–set the humorous tone for the show. Her 80’s DJ voice really stood out and brought an extra dimension to the performance. I did, however, find myself at times hoping she’d take it up just one more notch to somewhere between Less Nessman screaming about turkeys, and Robin Williams shouting “Good Morning, Vietnam!”
And, while his part was small, Skrum’s impact was big. It takes a lot for a high school student to play an authority figure and do well at it. Connor made us believe in the character.
And I must call out the amazing job of the backstage crew. I spent over 20 years doing that job. I know what it takes, and I know how it feels. It’s a skill to make the magic happen without being seen. You let us believe.
Yes. Of course.
I don’t think I will ever say “no” to this question when it comes to a student performance.
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.