REVIEW: High School Musical offers song, dance, high energy and talent

Youth is not wasted on the young in the stage production of High School Musical at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

Youth is showcased to the full extent of the cute, the wistful and the talented. Step aside inane plot, and bring on the fantasy. It is most enjoyable to watch.

With a cast of 20 professionals, supported by a host of local high school teens, High School Musical seems just like one, abundant in unpolished energy and charm. This stage production is ad­ap­ted from the movie script by Peter Barsocchini, with a score that includes the Guinness world-record-breaking “most suc­cessful songs from a soundtrack” singles Breaking Free and We’re All In This Together. Those numbers are performed with some great dance moves and some start­ling gymnastic feats as a bonus.

The main stars of the show are gifted singers. Little won­der, with 2005 Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil as the brainiac Gabriella, looking all the prettier in “real life” and hitting every note under the sun. Basketball star Troy is play­ed by the talented new heartthrob on the Drayton Entertainment block, David Cotton. Those main characters bravely step out of their own particular boxes to take the leads in their high school musical and in each other’s lives.

A stand out in the onstage crowd is Dena Chiarcossi, as reigning drama queen Sharpay Evans. She redoubles her efforts as Gabriella competes with her for the lead role and makes a fine argument for herself with her agile dancing, singing and exuberant come­dic abilities. Her twin brother, Ryan, is played with real flair and talent by Jeff Moulton.

Among other really likeable characters are Amelia Sirianni, as the wistful composer Kelsi Neilson, and Liam Tobin as the jock who bakes defiantly.

Susan Johnston Collins, as drama teacher Ms. Darbus, commands the stage with her dynamic presence. A Drayton favourite in shows such as Cinderella and One For the Pot, she is always memorable.

Drayton Entertainment inspirationally cast 60 area high school students to take turns performing in the pep squads. Hundreds of hopefuls from Waterloo Region appear­ed for auditions in an open call in February. Several are from Artistic Director Alex Mus­takas’ alma mater, Eastwood Collegiate. The teens work hard to engage the audience in the onstage action.

Music director Mark Camilleri leads the unseen but very much heard and appre­ciated band with enthusiasm and flair.

David Connolly’s expertise is apparent as director and choreographer of the large production. That experience in­cludes his recent stint as performance director for CBC’s reality show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Will the high school gang­sta’s soon be humming show­tunes in the hood? Maybe not, but audience members of all ages felt like it was a possibility at the time.

High School Musical plays eight shows a week through May 30 and on opening night was already 90% sold out.

Tickets can be ordered by calling the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse box office at 519-747-7788 or toll free at 1-888-449-4463, or visit­