REVIEW: Opening night for High School Musical sets the stage right

High School Musical as presented by Dray­ton Entertainment is what live theatre was intended to be.

The audience gets a glimpse of joy, a spectacular step out of reality, and lasting inspiration tempered with hope. Seren­dipitously, it rights the wrongs of our own high school musi­cals, often a fiasco of old fogey music and drama club kids on overdrive.

Music is the tie that binds basketball star Troy (David Cotton) and academic ace Gab­ri­ella (Melissa O’Neil) when they meet at a karaoke compe­ti­tion.

They audition for roles in East High’s musical, much to the chagrin of the the drama club members, brainiacs, and the "sport posse" jocks who de­fend their own territory.

Much energy is required in these efforts and the talented performers spend it all on spir­ited song and dance while learn­ing some life lessons.

This stage production is adapted from an original movie script by Peter Barsocchini. A formula for success, the show was presented to Disney as an old fashioned but contem­por­ary musical combining ele­ments of Grease, West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet.

Canadian Idol winner O’Neil returns after last year’s more than sold out run. From her hit single Alive to the Toronto production of Dirty Danc­ing, experience has her as polished and poised as Juliet while retaining the youthful in­nocence and raw singing talent that brought her fame. Her voice is faultless and strong, and we want to hear more of it.

David Cotton, also return­ing from last year’s show, looks like a typical teen heartthrob a la Zac Efron from the mega movie version. His singing voice blends well with his partner as in What I’ve Been Looking For.

Drama queen Sharpay, play­ed by Lisa Lennox, is a spitfire of comedy, dance, and sass. In her Drayton Entertainment de­but, we hope to see more of her talented comic timing, nuances, and remarkable dancing as she preaches "picking the right clique".

Her evil twin brother, Ryan, is played with depth and exuberance by Chad McNamara, a wonderful dancer as well.

Amelia Sirianni is endear­ing as Kelsi, the shy brains behind their own high school musical. Susan Johnston Col­lins, as that gloriously eccentric drama teacher that we remem­ber, commands the stage and provides much to laugh about.

David Connolly also returns as director and choreographer of this production and it is ap­parent he is up to the task;  perchance a labour of love as well. With many Drayton En­tertainment theatre credits, he also directed several TV shows such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and feature films such as Bolly­wood/Hollywood.

Music director Peter Aylin leads the talented band through boisterous show tunes, tender love songs, and fun pop music.

The set by Julia Tribe is so typically high school the audi­ence simply presumes they are in one.

Drayton Entertainment has filled a need to offer youth something in the arts by casting 64 area high school students with the professional cast. They are given the opportunity to take turns performing in four P.E.P. (Performance Education Program) squad groups. With the help of squad director Michelle Black, they are barely discernable from the pros.

High School Musical is playing at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse as the theatre in Drayton undergoes extensive renovation.

It plays eight shows per week through May 15. Call the box office for the best available tickets at 519-747-7788 or toll free at 1-888-449-4463.

For more infor­mation visit www.­dray­ton­enter­tain­