Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

High School Musical

Book by David Simpatico, based on the original Disney Channel movie written by Peter Barsocchini
Sunderland Empire and touring
(2009)

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Mini cheerleaders and basketball players turned Sunderland Empire into a sea of red and white, and it wasn't football related on this occasion, but rather the arrival of Disney's High School Musical. School's out this week but High School Musical's very definitely in, as the live version of the Disney Channel movie comes to town.

The show was almost sure to be an absolute sell-out such is the popularity of the film, best described as a cross between Grease and Fame.

Based on the story of the original smash hit movie, this is unashamed feelgood theatre, with big messages on being true to yourself and following your dreams.

The high-energy opening number Wildcat Cheer set the scene for what was a high-octane evening.

The action centres on the staging of musical Juliet and Romeo at East High School, and the crossing of clique lines between the brainiacs and the Wildcats' basketball team.

All the incredibly catchy songs from the film feature, from "Get'Cha Head in the Game", "Bop to the Top" to "We're All in this Together" and the anthemic "Breaking Free", as well as some new songs.

Although it was noticeable little ones in the audience did get fidgety when the musical numbers were dispensed with, but this is to be expected with very young theatre-goers.

From the start everybody is rooting for transfer student and science whiz Gabriella, played by Claire-Marie Hall, and her star-crossed love Troy, played by Ashley Day. She has a wonderful singing voice - especially given her tiny frame - and he was similarly impressive.

The pair of them have great stage presence, as do the other main characters. Lee Honey-Jones played Ryan with just the right amount of campness, while Emma Kelly captured the catty mannerisms of Sharpay beautifully.

A polished and talented ensemble, along with great costumes and slick set design of rolling lockers and tables and chairs, make it all seamless.

Cheesy it may be, but it's infectious and harmless, and all based on the premise of doing the right thing.

V Mitchell reviewed the 2008 tour, with a slightly different cast, in Newcastle, and the 2009 touring production was reviewed by Sheila Connor in Woking.

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci