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High School Musical Jr

As a new term starts at East High School after the winter break, the Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians and Skater Dudes all reform their little cliquey groups. Basketball team captain and resident jock, Troy, discovers that the brainy Gabriella, a girl he met while on holiday, has just enrolled at East High. As a Jock and Brianiac, neither are supposed to be interested in musicals, so cause quite some consternation amongst the various groups of students when they decide to audition for the High School musical, an original production called Juliet and Romeo.

Abbie Miller is arguably the stand-out performer as the charismatic drama teacher, Ms Darbus. She has excellent stage presence, poise, is vocally strong and a very good dancer; she clearly delights in every moment she spends on stage, always committed, focused and totally in character. Whether taking centre stage or blending in with the company numbers, my eyes were drawn to her performance for all the right reasons.

Lucy Miller portrays the popular yet catty student and president of the drama club, Sharpay, with relish, her attitude reminiscent of Alicia Silverstone’s character, Cher, in Clueless; she also has very good stage presence and shows accomplished dancing skills. Joe Mawby is entertaining as Sharpay’s brother, Ryan, and is showing a developing talent for dancing as well as having a very pleasant and musical singing voice. Nat Smith also demonstrates this double-whammy skill and is convincing as lead Brainiac, Taylor. Thomas Woodcock shows good stamina, coordination and athleticism as Troy, particularly in ‘Get’cha Head In The Game’, and makes an engaging couple with Rebecca Reed (Gabriella), who has a very pleasing melodious voice.

High School Musical Jr is written as a one-act musical adapted from the Disney channel film High School Musical, but DYT have included an interval which makes both ‘acts’ quite short and may have contributed to the overall tempo being somewhat stilted at times. This musical is a very ambitious choice for DYT to attempt and Musical Director Rachael Thorpe has made a sterling effort to help the group get to grips with the contemporary style, enthusiastically keeping them focused and together as much as possible; the youngsters (and some of the newest recruits are very young indeed!) are clearly enjoying their escapades, and are collectively at their strongest and most energetic when singing as an ensemble, for example ‘We’re All In This Together’. Although there is a wide range of ability within the group, DYT is a strong example of the value of community theatre, providing the youngsters with their first foray into musical theatre, fostering team spirit, cooperation, focus and fun – and that is a very important role to achieve.

However, the scene changes were too slow and unnecessarily awkward tonight, the pace overall lacked dynamic energy, not every routine was well coordinated or everyone secure with their lyrics and technical issues included house lights being somewhat unpredictable. Unfortunately, the pre-recorded musical accompaniment overwhelmed the young developing voices during some of the numbers and there was an imbalance between those who appeared to be miked with those obviously not (the latter not being heard at all at crucial times).

With opening night glitches and nerves settled, the cast should be able to really relax and enjoy the catchy music and entertainment value of this High School Musical.

Ends 20 July, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.