HIGH SCHOOL MUSICALVivid Jnr at Brentwood Theatre
High School Musical – a follow-up to Honk for Vivid Jnr – is directed by Amy Newland and Emma Jane Sweeney.
This popular spin-off [writers uncredited in the programme] has a derivative, well-worn storyline which will be familiar even if you don't know the Disney original – a holiday encounter recalled back in school, a show to put on, rivalry between Thesps and Jocks, and here, Brainiacs and Skater Dudes.
It's simply staged in Brentwood, with lockers and vending machine either side. Some good choreography – the basketball moves, the animated frieze behind Start of Something New.
Despite the heat, it would have been nice to have a little more physical enthusiasm from the young cast. Too often characters seemed awkward and lost on stage. Some of the dialogue, and even the lyrics, were obscured by the underscore and the backing track.
The star-crossed lovers - “typical jock meat-eater” Troy and cerebral Gabriella were played by Harrison Hall, looking slightly worried, and Rebecca Miller, perhaps a little too glam for the Science Decathlon. They sang sweetly together, but there was little chemistry – Drama Teacher Darbus, confidently characterized by Fern Harrison, will have her work cut out with her Juliet and Romeo musical.
Jonathan Wellers was a well-spoken team coach, Charlotte Hayward held things together as the news announcer.
But it was left to the Boyd sisters, Lara and Amy, playing villains of the piece Rian and Sharpay, to teach East High about engaging with the audience, acting with the eyes and making the best of the banal. As Darbus says after their What I've Been Looking For duet, “... very polished!”