High School Musical 2
by Random Farms Kids Theater

Before there was High School Musical 3, and after there was High School Musical, there was Disney’s High School Musical 2. Taking place the summer after popular high school jock Troy Bolton and new girl math freak Gabriella Montez started their romance and earned the starring roles in their school’s original production of Juliet and Romeo, the couple and their friends get jobs at the Lava Springs Country Club. But those jobs might come with a price, as the country club is practically owned by the father of the school’s theatre diva Sharpay Evans, who had every lead role until Juliet and Romeo and wanted the role of Troy’s girlfriend as well. And Sharpay is still determined to get Troy using any means necessary, including basketball scholarships and the country club’s upcoming talent show.

Random Farms Kids Theater in Tarrytown, New York who has helped churn out many young Broadway stars is currently staging this one with a mostly younger but talented crop of youth performers. The show is double-cast, and I was only able to catch their opening Cast A featuring Peej Mele and Emily Trias as Troy and Gabriella. Peej has a likeable, unassuming personality and does some serious soul searching in a well-staged Bet On It scene as Troy decides what’s most important to him. Emily is a younger Gabriella with a good nice girl personality and some strong vocals, combining with her Troy for some good musical numbers including I Gotta Go My Own Way.

Her nemesis is played by Brianna Gentilella with a million-dollar smile, and a priceless fake smile as well. Usually we see the latter as the amusingly conniving Sharpay tries to push her way past the others to get to Troy, brushing everyone else off as not worth her time and effort. She leads her snobby and ditzy Sharpettes (Maggie Brennan as Blossom, Erin Geary as Peaches, and Alexandra Digiacomo as an extra-ditzy Violet) in a fab rendition of Fabulous as they get themselves ready, and later as they get Troy ready. Her twin brother Ryan is played by David Barrett as a guy who is pretty much fed up with his sister Sharpay who leads the cast in a lively baseball game and rehearsal for the upcoming talent show.

Elsewhere, William Bailey shines as Troy’s best friend Chad Danforth who challenges Troy when he sees his friend going the wrong way, Taylor Williams is her charismatic namesake Taylor McKessie, and Brian Drittel is baking-obsessed Zeke Baylor, Alex Bradsell is hip-hop-obsessed friend Martha Cox, and Carly Maitlin is a sweet and reserved playwright Kelsi Nielsen who is the object of school radio personality Jack Scott’s affection (energetic Liam Lonegan). Recent college grad John Barbera is the “adult” in the show, the entertaining, unfortunate Mr. Fulton who tries to wrangle the battling high school students and appease Sharpay without giving himself an ulcer or nervous breakdown. Saleemah Sharpe, Elisha Andrade, Breyha Morgan, and Aanyse Chandler infuse the show with their dynamite and acrobatic cheerleading, and the ensemble shines in such numbers as Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Swing, and the big finale.

It all takes place amongst Gary Tenenbaum’s impressive Lava Springs sets, and is both directed and choreographed by Kristin Madden whose work includes some good choreography for the cheerleaders (even Fulton gets into their act) and clever staging for the Fabulous number that ends with Sharpay lounging happily in Troy’s lap (before she gets unceremoniously dumped when Gabriela surprises her by walking in), as well as a nice way of handling the last conclusion of the talent show as Troy is set to perform and his leading lady makes her way onto the stage as they prepare to end their pre-High School Musical 3 summer on a high note.

Performs July 31 - August 9, 2009

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Troy Bolton: Peej Mele
Gabriella Montez: Emily Trias
Ryan Evans: David Barrett
Sharpay Evans: Brianna Gentilella
Chad Danforth: William Bailey
Taylor McKessie: Taylor Williams
Zeke Baylor: Brian Drittel
Kelsi Nielsen: Carly Maitlin
Jack Scott: Liam Lonegan
Martha Cox: Alex Bradsell
Fulton: John Barbera
Blossom: Maggie Brennan
Peaches: Erin Geary
Violet: Alexandra Digiacomo

Wildcat Dance Corps:
Saleemah Sharpe
Elisha Andrade
Breyha Morgan
Aanyse Chandler

Lava Springs/Wildcat Ensemble:
Christina Martino
Patricia Lyons
Bianca Schneider
Natalie Vitello
Nikol Metaxa
Emily Aurand
Caroline Pluta
Jordan Hudock

Lava Springs Staffers:
Bailey Burke
Danielle McCloskey
Madison Chen
Karlee Roberts
Abigail Lupi
Paige Ciganek
Dylan Bange
Xander Warne

Producer/Artistic Director: Anya Wallach
Director/Choreographer: Kristin Madden
Musical Director: Justin Fischer
Production Coordinator: Lindsey Porter
Assistant Director/Choreographer: Alice Smyth
Set Design: Gary Tenenbaum
Costume Design: Terri Canziani
Scenic Artist: Betsy Feeney
Lighting Design: Michael Clark Wonson
Sound Design: Jonathan Hatton
Stage Manager: Debbie Amorese


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