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High School Musical – Live On Stage!

Edinbugh Playhouse
3 stars
If they didn’t own most of it already, you’d really have to hand it to Disney. Less than three years old, their aspirational kids-in-the-hall TV movie which has inspired this dancing-in-the-aisles stage version is still so fresh it’s barely broken sweat in the locker room. Already, however, its enough of a runaway global industry to have inspired a sequel, coming to a screen and stage near you soon.

The Frankenstein-like formula is simple. Squeeze Grease’s tough guy/nice girl summer romance into a high-achieving establishment that resembles Fame, tack on the inter-clique rivalry of Sweet Valley High set to an X-Factor age soundtrack of manufactured pop-lite, and voila, you have a low-attention-span bubblegum smash hit on your hands. Performed by an identi-kit ensemble of cartoon archetypes and sold to wannabe tween-age consumers with relish, everyone’s a winner in a way not even Hollyoaks’ current post-modern dalliance with Andrew Lloyd-Webber can top.

Would-be Romeo and Juliet Troy and Gabriella are the ultimate renaissance wonder kids, who show that extra-curricular activities are cool enough to allow them to be smart, sporty and arty all at the same time. Presuming the local council isn’t closing down the school, that is.

The show’s individualistic sentiments are condensed into the end of summer camp anthem that is Breaking Free, the only memorable song of the show. Which, with eight song-writing teams contributing to Jeff Calhoun’s touring production, demonstrates the showbiz state we’re in. High School Musical’s disposability is its strength for now, but it still looks like one more trailer for a DVD which in six months time will be dancing all the way to the charity shop.

the Herald, February 21st 2008

ends

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