This one’s better than “High School Musical”? No way! Way. Disney’s “High School Musical 2” has better writing, a far more interesting plot and inventive choreography performed by a marvelous cast of dancers.
This one’s better than “High School Musical”? No way! Way.
Disney’s “High School Musical 2,” based on the second film in the hit movie series aimed squarely at the 8- to 12-year-old set, has better writing, a far more interesting plot and inventive choreography performed by a marvelous cast of dancers. North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly has also brought back three of the charming and gifted stars from last year’s production of “High School Musical” for the current run of its sequel.
The remarkable Kate Rockwell is back as the saucy and selfish Sharpay, an amusing blonde teen villainess with money to burn and a heart as undersized as the Grinch’s.
Rockwell gets to flounce around in the show’s most fabulous costumes, followed by a tall, slinky trio of yes girls — the Sharpettes, who back up her vocals. She has a great voice, a gift for hilarious comedy, and is a fabulous looking actress. Her opening solo on “Fabulous” is — fabulous.
After her first scene it is announced that Sharpay has thrown “the first tantrum of the summer.” The plot revolves around Sharpay’s sinister plotting to break up the show’s young love interests, Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, played by David Nathan Perlow and Addi McDaniel, also returning for a second go-round in the roles at North Shore.
In the original “High School Musical” the two meet and fall for each other while trying out for the school musical, an unusual move for basketball star Troy. Now school is out for the summer and the students, including Bolton and the basketball team, are all looking for jobs. Sharpay manipulates her father, who owns the local country club, into hiring Troy for a summer job. Troy quickly gets the entire basketball squad, as well as Gabriella and her friends, hired to work in the kitchen, on the golf course, at the swimming pool and in the dining room.
Perlow is a powerhouse of a singer on “Work This Out,” which features a bit of rap, hip-hop style dancing, great choral harmonies, and the imaginative use of kitchen implements for percussion. Like all the dance numbers in this lively show, “Work This Out” features the effective use, by director/choreographer Barry Ivan, of the dancers’ long arms and legs in powerful angular and acrobatic dance moves.
Perlow is also mellow and appealing on his quiet love songs, like the sweet and contrapuntal duet, “You are the Music in Me,” he sings with McDaniel as Gabriella, and powerful in the dramatic “Bet on It” in Act Two, where he is beset by the cleverly contrapuntal admonitions of the voices in his head.
The plot is unabashedly nonsensical at times as the teens get away with goofing off continually by going off on tangents during their work day, where they gather to erupt in great ensemble song and dance numbers.
One of the early ones features the powerfully cutting voice of Dana Steingold as young songwriter Kelsi Nielson, sitting at a constantly reappearing grand piano for “You are the Music in Me.” After this lovely harmonic exercise, supposedly performed an instant after first seeing the music, there is some nice satiric dialog.
“Boy, you guys are killer sight readers!” says one of their high school friends enthusiastically.
McDaniel is charming as Gabriella, and has a sweet, soft alto in “I’ve Gotta Go My Own Way” in Act Two.
An outstanding performance is turned in by Christopher Brian Williams as Sharpay’s well-meaning brother Ryan. Williams has a grand voice and is one wonderful dancer, performing Ivan’s innovative choreography in “I Don’t Dance,” a delightful baseball-themed number.
The only older performer in the cast is the versatile Ron Wisniski as Mr. Fulton, manager of Sharpay’s father’s country club and always at her beck and call. Wisniski gets to run the gamut of comedy, drama, singing and dancing in a richly satisfying performance.
All the voices in the ensemble are solo quality, filling the theater with great choral work, ably backed by the teen ensemble players.
This show gives all of its stars far more satisfying music and dialog to work with, and the result is a genuinely interesting and engaging show, with a lovely and satisfying score. It is a really interesting show for all ages — great fun for the family.
Tickets for “Disney High School Musical 2” are being offered at $25 for youth tickets, 18 and under. For ticket prices on this show, call 978-232-7200, visit www.nsmt.org or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. The show runs through Sunday, Jan. 11.
Theatre-goers are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to support local food pantries. Donation receptacles will be in the lobby.
Meet the Theatre, a post-show audience discussion with the artists is at 7:30 p. m. after the Dec. 29 performance and 2 p.m. after the Jan. 3 performance.
Schools in Mass. and southern N.H. can fundraise during this show, earning $10 for every ticket sold with their special promotional code. For more info, or to obtain a code, e-mail email@example.com.