High School Musical: The Concert
There are some stories that are timeless; every generation is challenged to reinvent the tale keeping the underlying themes. Of these perhaps the most popular is that of Romeo and Juliet. It has been done more times that I can remember and still is open to fresh interpretation. One of the newest forays into the presentation of this story of star-crossed lovers is the Disney presentation, ‘High School Musical’. Now if there is one thing the Disney people know its how to provide family entertainment while making it available in every conceivable format. What started as a humble made for television presentation, this musical has now been used in a stage show, ice show, video game, series of books, theme park attractions and now a concert. The concert variation is now available on DVD much to the joy of all ages. Now I’m not part of the typical demographic of the Disney Studios but I have been a fan of musicals for years. This one pulled me in immediately due mostly to the energy of the production and the sheer infectious enthusiasm of the talented young cast. Due to my advancing age I think of a concert as something where you go and sit, watching the performers standing on stage. This is something new and wonderful for me although the younger set is certainly used to this type of production. There are colorful costumes, dance numbers and everything possible to get the audience on its feet.
The concert starts off with a split screen that shows the anticipation of the youthful audience as the cast finish the last minute makeup fixes and gear up to go on stage. As the curtain goes up the crowd is already cheering. The first number; ‘The Start of Something New’, begins with Drew Seeley singing while backlit. He replaces original cast member Zac Efron who was unable to join the touring concert due to his involvement in the movie version of ‘Hairspray’. Soon a young girl joins him; the lights come up a bit to reveal it is Vanessa Anne Hudgens. As the turn the song into a duet the rest of the cast rises up in the lights. The lights move from the back to the front as everyone is now clearly visible. You can tell immediately that the audience is composed of young people that know the libretto of this concert by heart. As the cast belts out the opening number fireworks go off and they prance around the stage. Considering the young ladies have heels on this is quite a feat to watch. Again it is most likely my age but the habit of the one arm, over the head arm swing is something I just don’t understand. For the next number, ‘Stick To The Status Quo’ a typical high school lunch table appears on stage. It is partly to give a little ambiance but mostly serves as something for the cast to jump up on and dance. As the cast sings there are moments where a large screen descends and clips of the original production are shown to help tie the concert to the actual story. Even if the cast member is on stage some of the song is presented on the big screen as the cast looks on. Between some of the numbers the screen splits and we get to listen to cast members talk about how this production has changed their lives and how happy they are to be a part of it. In other segments of the screen there are shots of the busy activity of the cast members preparing for the next setup.
The first solo number is ‘When There Was Me And You’ by Vanessa Anne Hudgens. She has a strong, clears voice just perfect for a ballad like this. One odd thing is although she has one of those little microphones that dangle to the side of her mouth she also has a hand mic. I guess it adds to the affect. As Hudgens waves to the crowd she has then firmly in hand. The audience is mesmerized, silent standing there waving their green glow sticks over head. Hudgens has an excellent vocal range. She belts out the song with feeling always connecting with her audience. Next up is one of the real break-out stars of the show, Ashley Tisdale. She has been on a number of family oriented television series and is a familiar face to many. ‘We'll Be Together’ is another slow number and she uses it to great advantage. Tisdale has the audience enthralled, you can see the looks on the faces of the girls in the seats, some no older than eight or so, completely into her performance. The pace picks up a lot with the basketball inspired number ‘Get'cha Head In The Game’ featuring Drew Seeley and Corbin Bleu. Here the boys in the cast get to show off their hoop skills as well as their vocal abilities. While the girls in the audience responded to Tisdale and Hudgens they go wild when these young men are on stage. Bleu’s solo ‘Push It To The Limit’ has the mostly female audience on their feet shouting. There is even a romantic duet ‘What I've Been Looking For’ featuring Vanessa Hudgens and Drew Seeley. The song is then repeated with a faster beat care of Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel. It may be the same song but the juxtaposition here of two completely different styles really works.
In all this was a very enjoyable presentation with extremely talented young people. This is the true meaning of ‘family entertainment’, not just something for the kids that the adults have to tolerate. There is no attempt to keep the narrative of the story, it’s just the music, singing and dancing and that is enough to keep you and your kids interested. There are also some great extras provided. The first is four songs by the opening act, Jordan Pruitt. She is a young singer that is a big hit on Radio Disney. She has a strong and pleasant voice that gets the audience ready for the main attraction. The next extra is a featurette that details what it took to get this concert on the road. It shows the typical road shots of meeting the fans, preparation and rehearsal and how well the cast gets along. ‘U Direct’ allows the viewer to pick the song and camera angles for selected numbers. It should be fun for the younger set. Finally there is a sneak peak at ‘High School Musical 2’. The technical specifications are excellent. The full screen video is vibrant and the Dolby Stereo audio is very well done. This is a great buy that will entertain the whole family for a long time to come.