About five minutes into the Disney production “High School Musical: The Ice Tour” at Alltel Arena, my 6-year-old turned to me and said evenly, “I think they're lip-synching.” I thought about trying to explain that in this case, the singing is secondary and that it takes extraordinary athleticism, plus a flair for drama, to pull off something like this. Instead I responded, “Yes. Yes, they are.” It's hard to impress kids these days, but my daughter's initial comment aside, impress it did.
This production had a surplus of what my little girl has dubbed “pizzazz,” which in her parlance is an indefinable quality that has something to do with teen-agers, romance and all things pink, sparkly and possibly tacky. In fact, “HSM on Ice” was so heavy on the pizzazz that at one point, my date commented, “It's too wild in here.”
Seated next to us was a row of young girls with spiral lollipops as big as ping-pong paddles. Others held up $20 HSM light twirlers like concertgoers raising their lighters. A toddler behind us — high on a Sno-cone and life in general — half staggered, half swayed to the music. His mouth and shirt stained blue with syrup, he waved a glow stick like a post-rave reveler. Our indulgence, except for all of our senses, was a $10 bag of cotton candy, novelty hat included.
Judging by the screaming, the crowd, though composed of females of varying ages, was predominantly pre-teen. Tweens in the front row held up fluorescent pink, hand-written poster boards that read “We love HSM on Ice!” Younger girls can't really grasp the whole Romeo-and-Juliet theme of “HSM,” but the show was certainly wholesome enough for them to enjoy on other levels.
The costumes were fun (I'd like to score some of those sneaker/ice skates myself), and props and a video backdrop were used creatively. The intermittent bursts of pyrotechnics were the highlight of the show as far as my date was concerned, and I agree that it was pretty exciting seeing flecks of fire rain down on the ice. Then there was the almost kaleidoscopic effect of the lights on the ice, and all of the dazzling, sequined costumes, near-blinding in their sparkle. The skating itself was thrilling, though I am easily awed by anyone who shows confidence and dexterity on ice. There's something inherently graceful about ice-skating, even through the chintz and earnestness.
“HSM on Ice” is an abridged version of the Disney TV movies “HSM I” and “HSM II.” All the main characters reappear, including the beautiful and brainy Gabriella and the jock, Troy. After intermission, Act II picked up where “HSM II” begins. Sharpay and the rest of the East High gang are working at a country club for the summer, where they again encounter rivalries and the trials of young love.
So how do you improve on the cultural craze that is “High School Musical”? Put it on ice, of course. Such is the natural evolution of the Disney production. Born a small made-for-television movie, it grows up to become an extravaganza on ice. And though I am loathe to admit it, Disney does some things right. This was one of them.