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Holly Phillips | Web Editor  
Eddy Perez | Photographer
LSU Office of Public Affairs | Fall 2008

School of Pop
East High invades Reilly Theatre with a Disney phenomenon

It’s a classic love story.

Boy meets girl during winter break. A karaoke contest reveals their love for singing and for each other. When vacation is over, they discover they go to the same high school. The young lovers decide to turn their worlds upside down when they audition for the upcoming high school musical.

Maybe it’s not a “tale as old as time.” It’s got more glitter than Grease and more choreography than Romeo and Juliet. Enter: Disney’s High School Musical.

The beloved students from East High have bombarded Reilly Theatre in LSU’s Swine Palace Production of HSM. While the story and theme are consistent with Disney’s TV movie, the characters are played by actors, actresses, singers and dancers from LSU and the Baton Rouge area.

The lovebirds, Troy and Gabriella played by theatre junior Bradley Sanchez and music/vocal performance senior Katie Mann, face conflict in their audition and in their quest for a relationship. While Troy is the star basketball player for the Wildcats, Gabriella is the new girl in school as well as a math and science whiz.

Their corresponding cliques stand in the way of their relationship, along with the two usual theatre stars, Sharpay and Ryan, who will do anything to get the lead roles instead of Troy and Gabriella.

For many members of the cast, the production brought back memories of high school complete with cliques, gossip, and the drama that follows.

“This production has definitely made me reminisce about my high school days,” said Mann. “I really identify with my character, Gabriella. We are both shy and studious, but have a passion for performing.”

Mann’s costar, Sanchez, is also reminded of his days in high school.

“I was not the popular jock in high school, so it’s interesting to play that part,” said Sanchez. “It reminds me of the trivial things we would worry about in high school; like winning the game or landing the lead part in the musical. It was a time of smaller worries.”

Other cast members were reminded of their earlier theatre moments.

“High school wasn’t too long ago for me, but the show has definitely brought back memories of doing theatre then,” said apparel design sophomore Quinn Connors who plays Cyndra/Sharpay’s understudy. “I haven’t been in a show since I was Sandy in Grease my senior year. All those memories come back.”

Although HSM is not a typical production for Swine Palace, the musical is reaching a much broader audience.

“We have so many more children in our audience each night and it makes the performance that much more worth it to me,” said theatre senior Jake Loup who plays a jock/Ryan’s understudy. “This show might not be a profound piece of theatre, but if done right we might be able to inspire someone each night.”

Disney released HSM as a television film in January 2006. It became the most successful movie ever produced by the Disney Channel with nearly 8 million viewers for its premiere broadcast. A television sequel was released in 2007. High School Musical 3: Senior Year will be released in theatres this month as the first Disney Channel movie to have a theatrical sequel. The popularity for the Disney story is evident in the crowd participation each night.

“I really love seeing members of the audience sing along and try to keep up with the dance moves,” said theatre graduate student Andrew Fafoutakis who plays a jock. “You can tell who the fans are.”

While the cast is made up of a diverse group, they come together as a complex unit. It’s a unique situation to have a production with music majors and theatre students, along with a balanced blend of rookies and veterans. Together, they have conquered their goal—to make it fun.

“I enjoyed working on ‘Getcha Head in the Game’—the basketball number,” said acting graduate student Scott Woltz who plays a jock. “I played ball in high school so it was enjoyable to get back to the feeling of practice, although we never danced in practice. I hope the audience can have fun and not take it too seriously.”

The close-knit cast seems to have only one dividing factor—the movie itself. Some have seen it, while others chose to build their character from the script.

“I actually haven’t seen any of the High School Musicals,” said Sanchez.” I didn’t want to watch the show and become an imitation of Zac Efron. I wanted to come up with a character from what the script offers me.”

It’s hard to say what will become of the students at East High. Will Troy and Gabriella be together? What will the basketball players do if their star gets the lead in the musical? Can Gabriella break out of her shell and beat Sharpay for the lead role? One thing’s for sure, the message of the movie is no secret: acceptance.

“The audience should leave with a feeling of acceptance for those who are different,” said freshman Chad McClelland who plays a thespian.

“I hope the audience leaves the theatre with a greater sense of self-worth,” said arts administration senior Ann E. Harris who plays Martha Cox. “High School Musical has lots of catchy songs, sure, but it also sends a message that you can be yourself.”

While being themselves, or their characters rather, the cast collaborated with costume designer and costume design and technology graduate student Michelle L. Hathaway to create a look for their character.

“This required months of research, development, and shopping,” Hathaway said. “My favorite part of the process for this show was collaborating with the cast to develop a finished look for each character. The work brought back memories of high school as the cliques portrayed in the show exist everywhere.”

Despite the cliques and clichés, the drama and the gossip of high school, the cast has pulled together for a story of all ages. Like most Disney productions, HSM fulfills a wish for members of the audience and the cast.

“I have seen the Disney movies,” said theatre performance senior Lauren Stotts who plays a cheerleader. “I always had this weird wish in high school that everyone would just break out into song and dance and with this show my wish is finally true.”

Swine Palace will run High School Musical through October 19, 2008.

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