The musical side of high school
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A few nights ago, the rehearsal for “Disney High School Musical” was nothing less than bedlam.
Enthusiastic, youthful, melodious bedlam.
As the quite-pregnant director, Jennetta Meitler Howell, oversaw things, 42 tweens and teens, plus a handful of adults rushed around, hurriedly changing into costumes, chatting and doing warm-up exercises. Once the actual run-through started, however, things became much simpler. As the players began to sing and dance in unison, almost everyone looked fiercely focused. Howell loves that about the stage.
In her words, “All of life sort of just falls away, and we’re just sort of immersed in the work.”
Part of her passion for theater, she explained, is the desire to pass that on. And, from the looks of it that night, she’s doing a bang-up job. Enthusiasm was everywhere.
Silt’s Jeroen Thornton, 16, definitely felt it. As “Troy,” the show’s male lead, he plays the kind of guy everyone wants to be ” or date. Tall and lanky, he has his character’s popular kid gleam to him, and it’s pretty easy to imagine him as the captain of the basketball team. As he talked about this, certainly his biggest production to date, it was obvious he’s a big believer in it. He sees a real message here.
“I think it kind of encourages you to step away from the cliques in high school and just be who you are,” he said.
The same feeling goes for Taylor Gilman, 15, of Glenwood. As Gabriella, the new kid (and Troy’s love interest), she gets to be that pretty, yet bookish, girl that the audience can’t help but root for. To her, this show is important not only because of its themes, but because it’s introduced her to a new world of theater. Though she’d hardly ever been a part of drama before, she just decided to give this audition “a shot,” she said, smiling.
“So it turned out pretty well,” she continued. “I just feel so lucky to be part of something so special.”
Even as the show’s villainess, Sharpay, Katie Fuleki, 17, senses that total camaraderie with her cast.
“It’s just a really great energy,” said the Silt student, who plays the pink-wearing, vapid nightmare-of-a-girl who virtually runs the school. Needless to say, much of her character’s actions revolve around trying to stop the Troy-Gabriella union.
Chandler Melby, 14, of Glenwood, is simply happy for all the freedom this piece allows him. As Ryan, Sharpay’s dapper and subservient twin brother, he gets to try on an entirely different personality.
“It’s fun to be something you’re not,” he said. “It’s the only time you get to work your imagination in front of others.”
Add these four archetypes to a slew of more kids, and what you’ve got is a classic high school tale of popularity, puppy love and social pressure. It has, of course, the steadfast, heartwarming themes of going against the status quo and being true to yourself. While this “Romeo and Juliet”-type plot may sound ever-so-familiar, though, there really is something kind of special about this particular show. Or maybe it’s just this specific production of it. Perhaps because almost every actor actually is in high school, they really capture the awkward innocence of that time of life. Though, by that night of rehearsal, not every single element of the piece was ironed out, the kids exuded a sweet, earnest quality that more than made up for it.
It’s now time, as Howell’s husband told her, to finally trust her players to go it on their own.
“My job was making them as ready as I could,” she said, with a wistful kind of pride, “and then I have to let them fly.”
It’s impossible not to wish them the best.
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