‘High School Musical on Tour!'
7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 1 p.m. Thu. and Sun.; 2 p.m. Sat. $17-$52. Robinson Center.
Unless you're a parent, the phenomenon that is “High School Musical” might exist only in the periphery of the magazine stand in the checkout line of the supermarket. But for millions of kids around the world, “High School Musical” is the Beatles and “Grease” rolled up into one big inspirational package.
First there was the made-for-TV “High School Musical” that first aired on the Disney Channel last January. It's the story of a popular high school basketball star and a shy, studious newcomer who discover they each hold a secret passion for singing. When they sign up to audition for the lead roles in the school musical, it sends their high school's social order into a tizzy. The jocks and braniacs and even the drama club hatch convoluted plans to keep the couple apart and offstage. But — spoiler alert! — in the end, the pair defy expectations and inspire everyone in the school to follow their dreams. Plus, there's lots of singing and dancing in between.
In the almost two years since “HSM” debuted, it's garnered two Emmys, produced, with its soundtrack, the highest-selling U.S. album of 2006 (ditto in nine other foreign countries), delivered nine concurrent Billboard Hot 100 singles (a Guinness world record) and spawned the successful “High School Musical Concert Tour,” the enormously popular sequel “High School Musical 2,” “High School Musical: The Ice Tour” (coming to Alltel next April) and “High School Musical on Tour!”, the stage version, coming to Robinson Center Music Hall for a run Wednesday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 9.
The stage show will remind audiences of the movie, says Olivia Oguna, 21, who plays Kelsi Neilson, the awkward and introverted producer of the musical within the musical. “But it's a much different musical,” she says. “There are things you can do onscreen that you can't do onstage and vice versa.”
For example, there's more integration of the full company of 65, according to composer Bryan Louiselle. There's also a new character, Jack Scott, the school announcer, who functions as the play's narrator, and two new songs, “Counting on You” and “Cellular Fusion.”
Oguna says that audiences often come expecting to see Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and the rest of the original cast of “HSM” the movie, but, she says, “We win them over in seconds.” The members of the company, who've been traveling with the show for six months and performing it for almost a year, are, after all, Broadway-caliber actors performing a play about putting on a musical. Surely they know what they're doing.
Oguna says her 12-year-old brother “was completely obsessed” when “HSM” debuted on Disney. “Those are the people who are coming to see the show,” Oguna says. “They know all the songs. They know the story. They're coming to see their favorite movie onstage. It really appeals to kids who're at an age where they're looking for something to connect and hold to.”
That might be a message for the 36,000 parents who weren't quick enough on the draw with Hannah Montana tickets and are trying to get back to best-parent-ever land.