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Review: High School Musical, Newcastle Theatre Royal

WHETHER you’re a true Wildcat or if perhaps you have been sharing my own little space under the rock of ignorance, you cannot have failed to have heard of High School Musical.

WHETHER you’re a true Wildcat or if perhaps you have been sharing my own little space under the rock of ignorance, you cannot have failed to have heard of High School Musical.

This is a true phenomenon. Bashed out for the Disney Channel in 2006 by 13 songwriters, it is now a ‘teen and tween mega-hit’ of three films and two stage show formats.

As a franchise, it probably has the turnover of a small country – Monaco, perhaps – and with the cultural behemoth of Disney behind it, this show drips dollars.

It’s the classic boy-meets-girl tale, Grease for the 21st Century kid – but without the dirt.

Troy is a sports jock and Gabriella a shy brainiac (go figure) and somehow, despite the machinations of superbitch wannabe Sharpay, they make it to the callback for Juliet and Romeo.

Set in East High, it celebrates breaking free from cultural stereotype and the magic of theatre (for the ‘press play’ generation). It is technically faultless and its bright young cast are fizzing with talent. Romeo and Juliet it ain’t, but this boy-meets-girl story has the magic formula embroidered all over its leotard.

Slicker than an oil spill on an ice rink and at a breakneck pace that incurs mild whiplash, the assumption is that you’ve seen it 10 times before so might not need to hear the dialogue anyway.

The big numbers were utterly deafening to my aged ear drums. Yet bewildered, suffering motion sickness and temporarily deaf as I was, I could not but help catch the High School bug. If I was fearful for the future of culture and the individual in the golden mitts of Disney, all was forgotten by the end. The show’s finale leaves one quite delirious with happiness and its hit songs are hugely infectious. Damn that magic formula!

 

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