Danville Express

Newsfront - March 23, 2007

'High School Musical' comes to Danville

Energetic play touches on the struggle to find one's self and to be accepted

by Natalie O'Neill

Walt Disney executives say it's "Grease" meets "Romeo and Juliet."

It's called "High School Musical" and if your household is free of pre-teens, the phenomenon may have slipped by you.

"I gotta hand it to Disney, they really turned kids on to musicals again," said Pam Greenan, who is directing the Danville Children's Musical Theatre rendition of the popular movie.

In January 2006, Disney released "High School Musical" as a made-for-TV movie that follows two students as they break through their cliques in order to audition for the musical at their school. The movie was a smash hit, selling 2.3 million DVDs in 2006 and has recently been adapted into a play.

Tonight Danville Children's Musical Theatre's production of the play will open at the Village Theatre, 233 Front St., in Danville and it is running through March 31.

In Danville and in community theaters nationally, the hit has prompted long audition lines and increased ticket sales at small venues.

The local cast of 57 includes actors ages 10-16 from Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek and San Ramon who have been rehearsing twice a week since January. The play appeals to kids and teens because it is completely about them, Greenan said.

"I've never seen so much enthusiasm on stage. They came in already knowing the lines and the choreography .... It's their 'Bye Bye Birdie,'" she said.

Kids countrywide have explained they love "High School Musical" because it's the only musical written about their generation. And this isn't just great for kids, it's great for small theater.

"'High School Musical' may be responsible for saving the budgets of theater departments across the country," wrote Disney blogger John Frost.

Aside from catchy songs and well choreographed dance moves, the play touches on universal themes like the struggle to find one's self and be accepted.

"The central theme is that it's OK to go outside the group," said Mandy Stein, a parent volunteer.

The central conflict exists between two groups of students - the jocks and the brainics. Main characters Troy (Travis Selland), the popular captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella (Lindsey Scanlon), a smart but shy transfer student, attempt to break through their respective groups as they audition for the main parts in their school musical.

"It's a glorified fairytale high school. There are no drugs, no hoods; it's the kind of high school where everybody wants to be," Greenan said.

Greenan has also directed "Beauty and the Beast," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Oklahoma" through Danville Children's Musical Theatre, but says this play is different. Unlike older musicals, she didn't have to get the kids jazzed up about the show - they already were.

"I didn't have to sell it to them, they were already saying to me, 'Pam, you're going to love this song,'" she said.

And as an audience member, you can tell they are having a blast onstage, Greenan said.

"The energy that comes from the stage is infectious, you know they are loving it," she said.

The biggest challenge this far has been to get all the characters on key musically, she said, adding that it can get tense in the final rehearsals. It's a big help to have talented Musical Director Nancy Jacobs, Greenan said.

The show is best fit for kids under the age of 18 and for adults with teens and pre-teens. Tickets are going fast and the Danville Children's Musical Theatre recently added two more matinees to their Saturday showings.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. March 23, 24 and 29-31 along with 2 and 4 p.m. on March 24 and 31. Tickets cost $9.50 for adults and $7.50 for kids and seniors. To purchase tickets, visit www.villagetheatreshows.com or call the box office at 314-3463.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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