Presuming that reports about Disney's High School Musical wouldn't interest CityBeat's readers, I've not previously written about that popular phenomenon, driven by repeated airing on the Disney Channel. And I'm still not certain that it's of that much interest to anyone who regularly reads this blog.
But I went to see High School Musical 2 on Feb. 28, presented by the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati (CTC) at the Taft Theatre. I imagined a show that would appeal to kids, and my expectations were reinforced by the hordes of moms and dads escorting little ones into the Taft. But what I saw onstage surprised me.
In one of my recent Curtain Call columns in CityBeat, I profiled David Centers, the scenic designer for CTC. What he dreamed up for HSM2 was sleek and functional, simple set pieces that moved quickly and let the show flow easily from scene to scene, while nicely providing scenes for a country club where the high school kids became part of a talent show. It also had a touch of a rock show with trusses and lights, operated by performers from raised platforms. HSM2 does not offer much of a story, but it was fun to watch because of Centers' designs and a ton of energetic choreography by Roderick Justice.
Justice is a recent grad of Northern Kentucky University, where he was a standout in musical theater as an actor, singer and dancer. Now he's CTC's associate artistic director, and his talents are in full bloom as HSM2's director and choreographer. He has inventively staged action involving more than two dozen high school performers, and this show was worth attending simply to see how much entertainment could be generated by kids without a ton of experience.
The production also featured solid musical performances, especially Kori Lynn Hoge as the annoying rich girl Sharpay Evans, Amalia Tollas as nice girl Gabriella Montez and Daniel LeClaire as Troy Bolton, the boy they are competing for. All have promising theatrical singing voices, and Hoge, who's 15, showed some acting chops that made her fun to watch as she schemed to be the star of the talent show and win Troy's affections.
Bottom line: CTC doesn't take short-cuts in producing its shows. Just because the audience is young, don't expect that these shows are amateurish. HSM2 was a polished production that compared favorably with many shows with adult performers.
CTC's next production is a musical version of the classic E. B. White story of a pig and a spider, Charlotte's Web, March 27-April 4, also at the Taft. Information: www.thechildrenstheatre.com.