By HEATHER POHLABEL
Daily Globe Staff Reporter
SHELBY - Ten years after its debut in movie theaters, Disney’s High School Musical has come back alive, this time on the stage of Shelby High School’s Performing Arts Center. Whippet Theatre advisor Brian Nabors alongside well-known youth theater producer and director Daphne Maloney assist Shelby Whippet Theatre cast and crew members in bringing their first contemporary production to the stage.
A large stage production is not usually what Shelby Whippet Theatre does this time of year, but “the kids were hungry for a bigger show,” Maloney explained. High School Musical was the obvious choice.
“Normally during the season, we try to do innovative things to captivate the audience and get people excited about the arts,” Nabors explained. “This is a really modern piece and one of the bonuses that we are finding is there are kids who normally have never been a part of our shows who wanted to, and are able to come and do this production, and it opens them up to experience theater.”
Nabors said High School Musical had been a top student choice this year, especially since the passing of high school student Megan Smith last year, who would have been a senior this year. “When Megan Smith passed away, it ended up in her obituary that she was excited to do High School Musical. At that point, High School Musical was not on our radar. We decided to do it this year.”
Another reason the musical was chosen was the fact that the students playing the parts grew up watching the show and wanting to be these characters, Maloney concluded.
“I’ll tell you that one of the interesting things about this particular production is that the kids who are performing in it, the kids who are working backstage, this is kind of their musical in regards to what era they grew up. They are exactly the right age. When this was on television for the first time, they wanted to watch the sing along version, they wanted to learn all of the moves, and these guys are the ones who were the little kids doing that at that time,” she said.
Doing a contemporary piece does not come without challenges, Nabors explained. “What makes this tough for us is that there is singing and dancing and trying to make that look like the original show was. Pop music is hard to do if you don’t do it correctly.
“We want to keep it as real as possible. It’s not a choral piece, so it makes it harder for us.” Shelby Whippet basketball players have been incorporated into the production, as the musical is based around lead characters Troy Bolton, a popular basketball star, and shy newcomer Gabriella Montez.
“It’s been more difficult to get the 7th grade basketball team in to practice because they have been winning and advancing their season, so they come in when they can and participate and practice. It has been changing every day,” Nabors explained. “But we are so pleased to have the basketball players as part of the production.”
This production also has an understudy show, Nabors added. “For those kids who tried out for some of them, this is their first time doing a show like this, but when they auditioned, we were torn because they were talented enough to have a role, but there wasn’t a spot for them, so we created that spot by adding an understudy show.”
The production is almost entirely student-led, Nabors pointed out. “The choreography was done by Allie Uplinger, Megan Cronewett and Mason Hall. Mason has never been involved in a production of this level yet and Megan has participated in the past, but we haven’t seen her on stage in awhile. This production has really brought out a lot of new interest.” For Nabors, the greatest achievement as a director, producer, and teacher is “to sit back and let them do it.”
The High School Musical cast of characters is as follows: Andy Wiggins as Troy Bolton; Megan Cronewett and Sara Diaz as Gabriella Montez; Mason Hall as Ryan Evans; Savannah Howard as Sharpay Evans; Dane Biglin as Chad Danforth; Grace Bihl and Lindsay Gies as Taylor McKessie; Westin Damron as Zeke Baylor; Morgan Hummel and Katy Long as Kelsi Nielson; Baylie White and Annie McKinney as Jackie Scott; Karli Ingle and Audry Dlesk as Ms. Darbus; Colton Osbourne as Coach Bolton; Santana Drake and Jarica Awwiller as Martha Cox; Spencer Beer as Ripper; Derek Hess as Mongo/James; Christian Geary as Cathy; Finley Means as Cyndra.
Chorus Members: Basketball team: Spencer Beer, Reed DeLauder, Brinson DeLauder, Owen Fisher, Derek Hess, Gary McClain, Takoda Pratt, Grant Reiser, Camden Walter, and Nathan Zehner. Braniancs: Jarica Awwiller, Grace Bihl, Alex Cundiff, Sara Diaz, and Santana Drake. Thespians: Christian Geary, Adie Goodyear, Becca Hawkins, Morgan Hummel, Heavyn Long, Finley Means, and Tort Staton. Skater Dudes: Spencer Beer, Derek Hess, Karli Ingle, Lily Mier, and Allison Workman. Cheerleaders: Elya John, Sara Stroup.
Shows are Saturday, February 13 at 2:30 pm (understudy show) and 7:30 pm and Sunday, February 14 at 2:30 pm. Tickets are available at shelbytickets.com, by calling the box office at 419-342-6580, or at the door of the Performing Arts Center of Shelby High School, 1 Whippet Way. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.“It’s a fun show! Come check it out!” Nabors said.