Chelsey Woody may not be Vanessa Hudgens, but her portrayal of Gabriella Montez in North Gaston’s production of “High School Musical” stole the show.
Energy was high amongst the leads, with young voices singing beautiful songs and leaving with a hearty round of applause after every number. Each actor and actress brought his or her character to life. Where some of the ensemble lacked movement and expression, Woody and Justin Kinan (Troy Bolton) made up for it.
I did not doubt for a moment the connection the characters felt and could see the romance slowly blossoming between them as the show progressed. I almost felt my heart break during Woody’s solo “When There Was Me and You.”
While the production excelled in characterization, it lacked in technical quality. Even during the opening number, “Start of Something New,” I was straining to pick up the lyrics; the diction was poor, and the music overpowered even some of the miked singers.
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I knew what was happening only because I had seen the original Disney movie. Volume fluctuated dramatically, and I wasn’t sure whether to cover my ears or cup my hands behind them. I am sure group numbers like the unsynchronized “We’re All in this Together” would sound ten times better, if not for the faulty microphones.
The highlights included Lindsey Farris’ complex choreography for “Get’cha Head in the Game,” harmonization between Troy and Gabriella during “Breaking Free” and the energy, humor and joy of Jonah High (Ryan Evans) and Simon Lumpkin (Chad Danforth). Katie Comer’s Sharpay Evans was sassy, narcissistic, fashionable and fabulous.
All the cast members, surrounded by an intricate high school set with the fierce wildcat mural, brought a little of themselves onto that stage. I could believe that each and every one of them was an East High School Wildcat.