Disney's High School Musical
by Des Moines Playhouse

Tiffany Flory, Sam Button-Harrison, and Christie BurgessWhile Disney’s High School Musical 2 set records for television audiences, the stage version of its antecedent is still setting attendance records in theatres across the country, including the recent production in Iowa at the The Des Moines Playhouse. Director Ron Ziegler stages a highly polished production of this phenomenon with a strong cast featuring one fantastic voice after another singing these songs to the best-selling soundtrack.

The story behind the music centers on the budding romance between East High Wildcats’ star basketball player Troy Bolton and the new, shy, “freaky math girl” Gabriella Montez – a romance that gets buffeted around when it throws the balance of jocks, brainiacs, and other school cliques out of whack. Troy is played by Sam Button-Harrison with an easygoing, good-guy personality. Tiffany Flory gives the role of Gabriella more depth than usual, with some genuine and very strong emotions. Together they turn in a great Breaking Free duet.

Of course, Sharpay Evans would try to convince you that the story really centers around her. She’s the prima donna actress at the school who, with her twin brother Ryan, has monopolized all of the lead roles in the school shows since kindergarten. And she’s not at all pleased when Troy and Gabriella end up reconnecting through auditions for the school’s upcoming musical. Christie Burgess, a young Meg Ryan-ish actress, is a hoot as the vain and always-eager-for-the-spotlight Sharpay, with Tony DiMeglio complementing her as her slightly younger brother Ryan, the two of them turning in some entertaining auditions with What I’ve Been Looking For and Bop to the Top.

Speaking of auditions, the ensemble turns in some amusing ones including Davin Bell as an earthworm with inner pain you cringe at, Jenna Schoppe showing off some impressive operatic vocals, and Claire Kapustka as an ultra-emotional singer. The cast is full of such good talent in the smaller roles, including but not limited to the expressionable Sasha Smith as goofy brainiac Kratnoff and Sean D. Tweedale as bake-happy jock Zeke who tries his best to win the heart of Sharpay, doing an especially precise job of getting his cake square in Sharpay’s face to end act one.

Elsewhere, Taylor Kinney makes the most of his role of Chad with some great expressions and comic timing, which includes his reactions to Amber Wines who has a terrific, funny personality as Gabriella’s quick-witted brainiac friend Taylor McKessie. The cheerleading squad is top notch, and they are instrumental in a couple of the entire cast’s most successful numbers – ending the first act with Stick to the Status Quo and finishing up the show in a big, energetic way with Breaking Free, the finale We’re All in This Together, and their Megamix ending that allows even more of the many talented voices that saturate this group of Wildcats to shine.

Performed July 13 - August 5, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Troy Bolton: Sam Button-Harrison
Chad Danforth: Taylor Kinney
Zeke Baylor: Sean D. Tweedale
Jason: Joe Spiess
Jock: Chris Rozenboom
Sharpay Evans: Christie Burgess
Ryan Evans: Tony DiMeglio
James: Davin Bell
Susan: Kim Cooper/Claire Kapustka
Cathy: Sarah Stallman
Alan/Jock: Brandon M. Gedler
Cyndra: Jenna Schoppe
Performance Art Kid 1: Doug Lewis
Performance Art Kid 2: Stephani Hyatt
Performance Art Kid 3: Allison Fox
Gabriella Montez: Tiffany Flory
Taylor McKessie: Sasha Smith/Amber Wines
Martha Cox: Jadie VanPelt
Kratnoff: Sasha Smith/Amber Wines
Ripper/Jock: Vicente Vasquez
Mongo/Jock: Nick Prenger
Skater Dude/Jock: Trevor Goodrich
Skater: Kim Cooper/Claire Kapustka
Jack Scott: Edgar Rosa
Kelsi Neilson: Kim Cooper/Claire Kapustka
Wildcats Cheerleaders:
Maura Fraker
Cicely Gordon
Heather Horstmann
Elizabeth Lowe
Erin M. Rettig
Michelle Wallace
Coach Bolton: Mike Schneider
Ms. Darbus: Veronica Dumas-Wines

Director: Ron Ziegler
Music Director: Brenton Brown
Scenic Designer: Kevin Shelby
Lighting Designer: Virgil Kleinhesselink
Choreographer: Alison Shafer
Costume Designer: Angela Lampe
Stage Manager: Alex Snodgrass


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