Gaston & Catawba

‘Musical' a hit with birthday girl and family

A Saturday afternoon in late October 2008.

A birthday party for a 7-year-old granddaughter.

Could there possibly be a venue more perfect for the party than a movie theater showing, you guessed it, “High School Musical 3”?

Clearly not, as Mary Nell Jenkins and a bunch of her friends, some moms, a godmother, two grandparents, two boy cousins and a hyper 3-year-old sister joined the throng at Franklin Square movies to celebrate.

Aunt Mary Frances Hamrick had provided the trademark outfit for Mary Nell to wear: the jeans, the “HSM3” shirt and the matching jacket.

I personally have tried to avoid the “High School Musical” phenomenon, seeing neither the first nor second Disney-devised, made-for-television films. It has been hard to do, though, with the Sharpay doll and last year's Sharpay Halloween costume, the CDs and glossy photos of heartthrob Troy floating around the Jenkins house.

But I was heartened by a three-star review by Observer film critic Larry Toppman, who pretty much always hits the target. We all enjoyed the high-energy songs, the dancing kids, the basketball scenes, the catchy music. Sister Anna was moved to jump out of her seat to dance up and down the steps. It's hard to stop a kid with rhythm.

The music will be with us eternally. Godmother Lee Carter kindly gave Mary Nell the CD, which has played nonstop since we drove out of the parking lot.

“HSM3” proved to be a flashback. My daughters knew every word of every song in “Grease” when they were in elementary school and memorized the steps of all the dances in “Footloose” a few years later.

At one point in “HSM3,” Troy's frenetic dance in the gym looks much like Kevin Bacon's gymnastics in the train station in “Footloose.”

There was a bit of a message in “HSM3”: High school seniors do have to think seriously about will happen after graduation. The 7-year-olds in the audience probably did not get it, but I bet many teenagers noticed that making decisions can be as challenging on screen as off.