We're All In This Together

18 Jun 2007

hsm.jpg

For anyone who did not automatically recognize this post's title as a quote from a movie or musical, let me make this prediction: You probably do not have or know any kids between the ages of 7 and 14. Am I right? ... I thought so. Those words are the title to one of the big songs (YouTube link) from High School Musical, a hyper-popular Disney movie and also now a staged musical.

My daughter's 12 now -- dead-center in the target demographic for this show. For Father's day, the kid and I caught the musical downtown. It was a great show all around -- well acted, well staged, clever sets, high-energy live music, and an impressively huge cast. At times, they must've had upwards of 50 kids on stage. (Or rather, they were "playing" kids; I suppose most of the actors were in their 20s.)

Major kudos are due to the party responsible for orchestrating so much activity onstage without the players tripping over each other. At times, the production was reminiscent of other stage shows featuring multiple simultaneous scenes. A few shows come to mind, though I think a performance of Hair was one of the best examples I've seen (in my admittedly limited experience with the theater) that could pull off this theatrical trick particularly well.

Even though it's called "High School" musical, it's really more of a Junior-High-oriented version of Grease, perhaps most apparent during a scene that directly mimics the "Summer Nights Summer Lovin' (Tell Me More)" song from Grease. Imagine Grease remade for kids, updated to modern times, and with the sexuality ratcheted down considerably. That's HSM.

Some would interpret that as a criticism; others as a godsend. I had no problem with it and, judging from the several thousand screaming, clapping-along-with-the-songs audience members (on the final day of a two-week sell-out run), few others did as well. I only point this out to counter the negative reviews I've heard about this show. My reaction to these is that, if you hate this show, you're simply not viewing the world from the eyes of the target demographic. And that is precisely why one should give little credence to many reviews for kid-oriented movies or shows that come from the mouths or pens of adults.

Roger Ebert, for example, called Eddie Murphy's 2003 movie Daddy Daycare "a woeful miscalculation, a film so wrong-headed audiences will be more appalled than amused." Now, I really respect Ebert; he's my favorite film critic, in fact. But, my daughter has seen Daddy Daycare about 600 times. How he could ever have approached Daddy Daycare as though it aspired to be, say, The Sound of Music, is his own "woeful miscalculation." But, I won't pick on Ebert today -- coincidentally, his 65th birthday. Happy B-day, Roger!

[Okay, that was the serious part of my review. Now on to the sarcasm ... ]

What I liked most about High School Musical was the way it so accurately captured the true spirit of today's public high school -- the way the jocks, brainiacs, stoners, sk8erz, and faculty can all set aside their petty differences and pull together for the greater good, creating a warm, fuzzy, clean, safe, feel-good environment in which everyone is not only encouraged to pursue their own unique interests, develop their own voices, and form their own identities -- but where each individual is lovingly accepted by the entire harmonious group. Wasn't high school simply a magical time?

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