After GMTV launched a nationwide search for its leading man Troy, the Wild Cats are back on the London stage in High School Musical 2 Live On Stage at the New Wimbledon theatre and this time, school’s out for summer.
School spirit and teamwork have not been left at the school gates however, as the musical group of Albuquerque teens from East High set off for a summer of fun and romance working at the country club Lava Springs for the bumbling Mr Fulton (Les Dennis). But the blonde and, by her own admission, fabulous Sharpay Evans’s (Lauren Hall) new found Wild Cat spirit of togetherness – discovered in the first instalment – doesn’t last long when she sets her sights on breaking up the school’s golden couple, Troy (Liam Doyle) and Gabriella (Nikki Mae), who proved that not only can the basketball star and book worm be together, but they can also sing together too.
With Troy worrying about the chances of winning a college scholarship, Sharpay finds a way to distract the most popular boy at East High from his friends and his relationship with Gabriella, all the while plotting how she will win the star dazzle award in the summer talent show for the sixth year running.
Going on the reaction on press night from the numerous pre-teens dressed in East High cheerleading outfits, well versed in every line from the pop soundtrack, the actors manage to evoke all the enthusiasm and charm that has made the High School Musical franchise so popular. Hall, as the sassy, brash and shrill Sharpay, steals the show with her gem-encrusted golf cart and a variety of very pink, very Barbie outfits. Dennis is funny and believable as the teenagers’ downtrodden boss, and manages to keep up with the younger cast singing, and even at one point rapping, his way through the show.
But it is the high school sweethearts that the audience have come to see and Mae and Doyle’s sweet duets including You Are The Music In Me and Gotta Go My Own Way portray love’s young dream perfectly. These ballads are interspersed with rockier numbers such as the Michael Jackson inspired I Don’t Dance and Troy’s crisis of faith number Bet On It, as well as infectious group numbers with glitzy dances and pleasing over-the-top staging, including the Hawaiian Humuhumunukunukuapua’a and What Time Is It.
With a candy-coloured set that includes an impressive, but simple, 2D pool scene, and a backdrop of marshmallow clouds and distant mountains, High School Musical 2 Live On Stage retains the innocence and fun that the films are famous for. With a few tongue-in-cheek jokes thrown in, the Gap-clad kids may be very now, but with the resounding message of sticking together and looking after each other, the show follows a classic family-friendly formula. After an explosive finale that has every child out of its seat, just don’t expect your children to get any sleep that night.