HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL by David Simpatico, based on the movie by Peter Barsocchini, directed by Jeff Calhoun. At the Princess of Wales (300 King West). To Sep 23. $32-$84. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN
If you think high school musical is a generic expression and not the actual title of a show, you're probably (a) not a fan of musicals, (b) not a devotee of the Disney Channel, and (c) well over 16 years old.
I'm b and c, so I took my 13-year-old niece, who grew up imitating Disney heroines and knows the difference between preteen Disney celebs like Hannah Montana and Zack and Cody.
Based on the record-breaking Disney Channel original movie that made Zac Efron (Hairspray) a Teen People pin-up, the show tells the story of two Southwest USA high school students from different cliques. Troy ( John Jeffrey Martin ) is the school's star basketball player, while Gabriella ( Arielle Jacobs ), the new kid in the corridor, is a brainiac science student.
The pair, who actually met during Christmas break but - duh - didn't know that Gabriella was moving to Troy's school in January (yes, that seems like an homage to Grease), make beautiful music together - literally. And they kinda want to try out for the school musical. But their individual cliques, not to mention perennial thespians Sharpay ( Chandra Lee Schwartz ) and Ryan ( Bobby List ), don't want them to. It's a silly idea for a show, but it's done with affection and energy. Lisa Stevens 's choreography never drops the ball, especially during exciting basketball sequences and the tripartite climax.
Kenneth Foy 's ingenious set morphs easily from locker room hallway to drama studio to a rooftop greenhouse.
It's too bad the songs aren't more memorable. At best, they're derivative of more successful Broadway tunes. (I swear one song is a couple of bars away from a rip-off of Hairspray's You Can't Stop The Beat.) At worst, they're the sonic equivalent of a Gap T: inoffensive and bland.
Speaking of outfits, some of those costumes are pretty skimpy. Which is so smart: preteens will be going for the story while their parents get to ogle.