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Review: High School Musical

Pure, unadulterated fun

To those of us who grew up watching the movies, High School Musical barely needs introducing. This week’s ADC late show is a nostalgia trip that is so enjoyable it doesn’t even need nostalgia to carry it. David Simpatico’s stage adaptation is fast-paced but not rushed, a whirlwind tour through songs I had forgotten I knew the lyrics to.

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Sharpay (Laura Saunders) and Ryan (Oscar Kong) absolutely stole the show with spot-on singing, acting, and attitude. With expressive body language and dialogue delivery that channelled their characters’ extravagance perfectly, they commanded the stage. Their only competition was Jack Scott (Nik Pope), the “velvet fog of East High”, who appeared via Snapchat story updates on a screen to help the show transition from scene to scene, always to great applause. Mrs. Darbus (Claudia Bisutti) and Coach Bolton (Rory Russell) were highlights as well. Bisutti’s wonderfully dramatic portrayal of the drama teacher was hilarious, while Russell – decked out in his “daddy Bolton” jersey – somehow managed to be memorable despite his small presence in the show.

Gabriella (Jai Shende) and Troy (Jonathan Iceton) didn’t quite stand out, but that’s only because the rest of the cast was so fantastic. Their duets together still struck just the right balance of endearing and corny, the audience whooping when Gabriella hesitantly placed her hand on Troy’s under the greenery of the rooftop garden. Iceton’s singing was comparatively weak, with Shende’s smooth voice carrying the more emotional scenes, but he made up for it with confidence and stage presence, which is basically the essence of Troy’s character anyway.

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The band was excellent, as was the effective use of the space the stage offered. The show was a little rough around the edges in places though: mics getting turned on too late, sound effects masking dialogue, the odd mistake with lines and dancing. It was opening night though, and by the final number the cast already seemed much more relaxed and in sync. The final two numbers (one of which was a mash-up of the songs performed throughout the play that admittedly lasted a little too long) were the most well-executed of the full cast musical sequences, so I fully expect the next nights to become more and more polished.

Above all, this nostalgia trip was pure, unadulterated fun. The cast clearly enjoyed themselves immensely, and that energy easily transferred to the audience who laughed and cheered at every iconic moment. A breakneck romp through cheesy high school relationships and songs many of us know by heart, I barely stopped smiling the entire time. If you want a light-hearted break from Cambridge, High School Musical is the show for you.

4/5 stars.

High School Musical is on at the ADC until Saturday, November 10th. Tickets are £7-£10.