High School Musical 2
by Class Act Productions and The Woodlands High School Theatre

They may have won their basketball championship, math team competition, and starring roles in the high school musical, but Troy and Gabriella aren’t done yet. Summer vacation is here, and so is High School Musical 2. And as soon as they put out the movie sequel (written by Peter Barsocchini), you knew the stage version (adapted by David Simpatico) was coming out to try to capture the phenomenal success of the original stage production.

One of the first schools in the nation to stage the original High School Musical was once again chosen as one of four schools in the country to stage the pilot version of its sequel. Representatives from Disney attend to see how it goes and take notes for creating the version that will eventually be released, so what the schools do with the pilot has a big impact on the final product. And what The Woodlands High School and their partner Class Act Productions did was turn in a remarkably entertaining and impressively staged show.

The plot of the sequel has the group trying to figure out what do over the summer. Troy Bolton, the school’s basketball star, is concerned about getting a college scholarship and finding a job. Gabriella Montez, the school’s new math whiz and Troy’s new girlfriend, wants to enjoy the summer, spend time with Troy, and make a little money as well. In fact, all of Troy’s friends are in search of summer jobs. Sharpay Evans, the school’s prima donna who has a crush on Troy and is not too happy with Gabriella after being beat out for the lead in the high school musical, is spending the summer at the Lava Springs Country Club where her well-to-do family are big-wigs and where they have an annual talent show that she wants to win. And she wants Troy there with her. So she pulls a few strings and gets Troy a job at the club, not realizing that Troy was going to end up getting all his friends jobs there with him – including her rival Gabriella. Can Sharpay break up Troy and Gabriella AND win the club’s talent show? She’s got her own summer job cut out for her.

Jimmy Dolphin stars as Troy, a strong singer and an excellent actor who gives Troy some depth and a very real personality as he gets torn between reaching for his scholarship goals, loyalty to his friends, and keeping his word. All of that requires a bit of soul searching, which is what he does in his great Bet On It solo between himself and his circle of friends, a fog machine and good lighting turning that circle of friends into shadows in his mind. Colleen Dawes is Gabriella, giving a good performance as the down-to-earth girl who finds herself having to choose the best way she knows and just hope that Troy will follow her there. Together they once again team up for a couple of good duets including Gotta Go My Own Way, Every Day, and the big You Are the Music in Me number written by their school playwright Kelsi Neilson (nice job by Emily Weir as the once shy but now more confident and outspoken Kelsi). That musical number starts off with Kelsi teaching Troy and Gabriella her new song, soon gets all the Wildcats in on the act as a disco ball tosses the lights around, and by the end leaves Kelsi impressed with how quickly everyone caught on. “Wow, you guys are killer sight-readers!”

But what about Sharpay? Well, she would be happy to know that she has a much bigger role in the sequel, and the story is as much about her as anyone. She begins the story trying to pretend to be a changed person who loves everyone, but clearly she’s still got a long way to go as her scheming seems to be as devious as ever in her efforts to get the boy and the show. And the hilarious Madeline Landers nails the role with a great personality, creative humor, and a funny little laugh whenever Sharpay tries to fake sweetness. You might just say she’s fabulous, and she does say so often enough. They’ve even got a song for it. Called Fabulous. With two reprises. And helping her sing her praises is her own fabulous sextuplet of “Sharpettes” – and the six shallow, super funny, ditzy debutantes add much to the humor of the show. None of which are ditzier than Violet (Erica Rascon), and none may be more smarter than Peaches (Kelley Jones) who adlibs well when she walks out to sit in her poolside lounge chair, finds that the bottom part has collapsed, looks at the broken set piece for a second, bends over and fixes it, then cocks her head with a great expression – as if confused over her sudden onset of mechanical genius.

The strong and deep cast mostly consists of The Woodlands High School students, but also has several actors from other local schools including College Park, John Cooper, Klein Collins, Oak Ridge, and the Academy of Science and Technology from which hails Sharpay’s brother Ryan Evans, with Nick Venzin finding pride in his newfound independence and getting out of his comfort zone (as a surprise baseball star in a well-staged game that uses the stage and the orchestra seating). Another standout includes Josiah Miller as Mr. Fulton, the deadpan employee of Lava Springs Country Club who generally does Sharpay’s bidding in recognition of the power her family has, but is never shy to express his real opinions about her, and who turns out to be saddled with some eccentricities of his own. While elsewhere, the ensemble of waiters, golfers, talent show contestants, and students biding their last few minutes before summer break add much through their dancing, singing, and humor.

Co-Directors Carlen Gilseth and Keith Brumfield have put together a “fabulous” production in all facets. Musical Director Glenn Sharp expertly filled in all the gaps between the songs with original orchestrations that had not yet been written, and his orchestra does a terrific job with the score. There are many great visuals with the help of a talented group of designers including lively sets (Matt Arceneaux and Vilija Tuminas), lighting (Liz Swaffield and Olivia Wright), choreography (Connie Godwin), and especially the costumes. Student designers, sophomore Arielle Mahon and junior Evan Raymie, demonstrate great creativity and flair – especially when it comes to Sharpay, Ryan, and the Sharpettes. The creations include Sharpay and Ryan’s spy costumes (camouflage with Sharpay’s hat topped with flowers and Ryan’s hat with weeds), shiny and colorful spandex outfits for the disco, and the tropical Humuhumunukunukuapua’a party featuring fun hula outfits, Ryan in a crazy glittery purple costume with a tropical fish hat, and Sharpay in a turquoise seashell dress with a fruit basket hat.

It all ends in another splash of colors. Dozens of beach balls are launched into the audience for the big Megamix montage of High School Musical 2 songs – the next Disney stage hit that will likely make fans out of those who enjoyed High School Musical 1, and no doubt will soon be coming to a theatre near you.

Performed May 8 - 16, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Troy Bolton: Jimmy Dolphin
Chad Danforth: Aaron Boudreaux
Ryan Evans: Nick Venzin
Mr. Fulton: Josiah Miller
Zeke Baylor: Will Rogers
Jack Scott: Joe Dougherty
Gabriella Montez: Colleen Dawes
Sharpay Evans: Madeline Landers
Taylor McKessie: Caitlin Ferraro
Martha Cox: Angelica Hunyadi
Kelsi Neilson: Emily Weir
Marilee: Whitney Brandt
Peaches: Kelley Jones
Violet: Erica Rascon
Blossom: Holly Winberg
Ramona: Claire Berger
Chelsea: Kaytie Markfort
Company (Students, Waiters, Talent, Golfers):
Sydney Bertrand
Ryan Breuer
Jainelle Daniels
Santiago Delgado
Ashley Dunton
MacKenzie Haffey
Keith Hale
Chandler Howard
Amanda Lange
Tyler Lewis
Julia McNicoll
Travis Meador
Kary Ray
A.J. Rogers
Megan Simpson
Antonio Tombari
Jennyfer Vargas
Marisa Vasquez
Tatiana Windon

Director: Carlen Gilseth and Keith Brumfield
Musical Director: Glenn Sharp
Choreography: Connie Godwin
Additional Choreography: Taylor Neville and Chloe Wilson
Stage Manager: Jessica Canfield
Lighting Design: Liz Swaffield and Olivia Wright
Sound Design: Spencer Timm
Set Design: Matt Arceneaux and Vilija Tuminas
Costume Design: Arielle Mahon and Evan Raymie


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