Reviewed by Tom Noreen
We attended the opening night performance of the Cedar Springs High School’s production of Disney’s High School Musical on February 9. Each year when I write a review of the High School’s musical I say it is better than last year’s. I will say the same this year.
Director Rebecca Casavant did an excellent job of casting. Every actor, whether first-timers or veterans, embraced their part and performed it with gusto. The non-verbals are so important to give life to the part and then to the overall experience. These students did a fantastic job as you watched them live out their roles.
This production had more dance numbers than any that I remember. Liz Bradford’s choreography added so much to the overall performance. I am sure she had kids out there that had never danced a step in their life dancing their heart out.
The musical was done to a CD and thus no musical conductor was there that could help when someone missed a cue or got out of sync with the music. Musical Director Linda Janik had them singing like pros. The actors had to know the music well to be ready to jump into a song without direction.
Layered onto this is the technical side of lights, sound, and stage. This too was done well. If you can’t hear or the lights don’t work, it takes away from the performance.
Now what is so amazing for any musical is the integration of these four elements: the acting, the singing, the dance and the technical. This was done so well and made it such a great experience.
Back to the actors: Nicole Von Seggern and Thomas Metiva as thespians Sharpay and Ryan Evans were super. They had their roles nailed tight as did Ethan Ream and Gabriella Montez as jock Troy Bolton and brainiac Leslie Hansen. Kaylee Tennant portrayed Kelsi Neilson, a fledging student playwright whose musical was the focus of the conflict between the Evans’ and Bolton and Hansen, not to mention it pitted Drama Teacher, Ms. Darbus, against Coach Bolton for the talents of Tray. They were played by Alice Casavant and Austin Nielsen respectively. As the musical unfolded, each of these roles evolved and the actors had to change to personify their new personality. Along with the leads, each of the supporting actors was just as believable and passionate.
I’ve seen the stage production at least two other times. Once in Belgium by the American High School and at the Civic in Grand Rapids and this one wins hands down.
None of this would be possible without the support of the school board, staff, faculty and parents. I want to commend them for making it possible.