High School Musical, Oh no, they didn’t!
There can be only one word to describe the stage version of the hit Disney made-for-TV movie, A Well Intentioned Disaster. Starting with the choice of actors for the lead role, it was obvious that the producers intended to play on the sentiments of kids who had already watched the movie, rather than give a performance that would actually stand alone. In spite of a script, there was no sign of a unique interpretation as all one could see was a rather shoddy imitation of the actors in the original cast.
Stage Gabriella, Theodora Odinenu, looked more apt for the role of a shy academic than overly gorgeous Vanessa Hudgens, who played the character in the movie version. Alas, the mandate to “stick to the status quo” in spite of a script meant that Gabriella still remained the same simpering, dreamy-eyed girl as played by Hudgens but worse on stage, where the smile sometimes came off looking like a grimace.
Troy, played by Minjin Adewale Lawson, was as gorgeous as ever and got a lot of screams from the young audience. The actor, unlike the others, should be given kudos for trying to be comfortable in his role. One caught a whiff of the Lagos Boy during the scenes where he had to woo Gabriella. The chemistry between the couple was understated but still palpable enough for the audience to scream in disappointment each time it was denied a kiss between the two. Such scenes ended predictably with a hug.
The only other person in the cast who tried for some originality but to the detriment of her character was the actress who played Mrs. Darbus, the drama teacher. The lady, obviously an experienced stage actress, kept projecting her voice in spite of the microphone attached to her face. Her attempt at a foreign accent meant that she kept mispronouncing her words, made some fatal grammatical errors and could be safely accused of over-acting. In short, she killed the character.
Another character killer was the kid who played Jack Scott. He was overly-eager to do his best that he failed to wait for cues, which meant that he started speaking before his microphone was turned on and the spotlight was on him and also meant that he had to repeat his lines when the stage manager eventually caught up. He also kept saying Juliet and Romeo instead of the other way round.
Everyone in the supporting cast, it seemed was bent on being the star. This meant that not more than once, Troy and Gabriella were literally upstaged. In spite of the prior hype, the choreography was seriously bad with lead actors like Odienu botching their moves. Synchronisation amongst the dancers was nonexistent and it would seem that not enough practice time was put in to achieve this. One could be tempted to blame the tepid dance routines on the size of the stage. Considering the props and the size of the dance cast, it did not look wide enough to accommodate the full blown acrobatics as seen on TV. Still there were some routines that required few dancers, such as the cheer leading squad, that was seriously damaged.
The most painful for me personally was the routine to the song Bop to the Top by Sherpay and Ryan. It is a mostly salsa based dance routine and was one of the high points of the movie dance wise. Our Sherpay however was lackluster and more intent on sexy moves than real dancing. The dance seemed forced and silly and not at all the powerful stuff pulled off by Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel in the movie.
It would appear that more attention was paid to the singing than to the dancing. And even at that the singing was, to put it mildly, not-so-good. Odinenu was the only one with an actual singing voice. Lawson appeared to have lost his voice during practice such that in songs like 'Breaking Free', he failed to really harmonise with Odinenu. The sound production did not help matters either. Despite the four to five microphones hoisted to the end of the stage and those worn by some of the actors, there were times when the feed was lost and one could barely make out what was being said. This poor sound production went a long way to ruin any enjoyment that with might have been derived from group performance of “Stick to the Status Quo.”
One may be tempted to play on sentiments here and say stuff like, the actors tried (which they did. The young actors especially get a B3 for effort), the kids enjoyed it (no they didn't! They was a constant stream of people out of the hall) and not be too critical. Well, it is HSM. If the intention was not to do something better than what has already been done and seen a million times on cable, it should not have been done at all. History should have proven to us that even though we love copying, Nigerians don't copy very well. Making this an over-hyped idea with a terrible follow-through and a show everyone, especially the kids who lamented pitifully that it was nothing like the original, would have rather done without.