“High School Musical” on stage: truly the start of something new


(Left to Right) Isaac Vargas as Troy and Adrianna Garcia as Gabriella on top of the rooftop garden sharing their feelings in Act 1 on Jan. 27. Photo by Rachel Leon.

Rachel Leon and Julia Wong

The Disney classic “High School Musical” has had a massive impact on pop culture since its release in 2006. The decade-old story has left many unforgettable scenes and songs that we casually recall and tune into from time to time. When the musical department decided to select this iconic classic as its next project, audience anticipation for the school’s adaptation was high. With four nights from Jan. 26-29 and 125 seats, students brought the production to life in the Bulldog Cafe.

The production opened with “Wildcat Cheer” which was filled with energy and a great start to the night. The performers were vivid, and even the smallest details were evident from each actor.

Act 1 began with the retelling of Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, played by Isaac Vargas and Adrianna Garcia’s, first meeting. Vargas and Garcia replicated Troy and Gabriella accurately from physical mannerisms to facial expressions.

The scene switching between the past of New Year’s Eve and the present school day was something audiences were curious to see carried out in person. It did not disappoint, due to the performers’ ability to switch their roles quickly and the technical theater’s fast-changing stage lights.

The on-stage chemistry between all the actors was remarkable as well. From the two leads to the opening scene where Taylor McKessie, played by Gabrielle Manuel, forms a friendship with Gabriella, every character had a natural on-stage bond, where collaborative efforts were key.

“Collaboration is so important in musicals because it is the only reason musicals work. Musicals are made up of dancing, singing, acting, and music, and the only way for those four things to be in the musical is if each aspect of those collaborates to make one cohesive musical. And that’s the reason why it’s so special,” Manuel said.

The “Start of Something New” with Troy, Gabriella, and Company singing in unison, fills the Bulldog Cafeteria on Jan. 25 during dress rehearsal. Photo by Rachel Leon.

The first look into the interactions between the different cliques is presented in the opening of Ms. Darbus’ homeroom. Ms. Darbus, played by Isabella Mercado, introduced the winter musical “Romeo and Juliet”.

Mercado’s performance must be highlighted. It was shocking how accurately she encapsulated Ms. Darbus, replicating even her accent to exact detail. She also added many comedic elements throughout, which were entertaining.

This led to the introduction of Sharpay and Ryan Evans, two extremely memorable characters from the movie. Shelby Rana, who played Sharpay Evans, and Apollo Lozano, who played Ryan Evans, likewise to their cast, captured their characters perfectly. Rana upheld the sass and conceit of Sharpay perfectly and her vocal talent was incredible to witness.

One of the most warming parts of the production was the music. Although it seems obvious, the music was truly an immersive experience that felt straight from the very movie that generations experienced years ago. “Get’cha Head in the Game” was met with great vocals from Vargas and the choreography from dance department Director Andrea Franco played a massive role in each number. Watching the jocks and the supporting role of Chad Danforth, played by Joshua Castro, in this scene was entertaining.

A performance that stood out in Act 1 was “Stick to the Status Quo”. Impressive choreography included Ripper, played by Joshua Rodon, Martha Cox, played by Julianna Othmer, and Zeke Baylor, played by Mario Salinas, standing and dancing on top of three separate tables. The cliques of jocks, thespians, and brainiacs were present, all of which were exceptional in their characters. Othmer’s comedic role as Martha Cox was a personal favorite throughout this number and even in small cameos. The choreography and singing mirrored the original number identically. Audiences in total sang along to the song and had a great time watching one of the most well-known scenes being brought to the stage.

Audience member, Junior Aysa Pan, explained how she felt while watching Vargas and Garcia during their duet songs.

“It’s just so emotional and everyone singing behind them is so good, it’s so put together,” Pan said.

Act 2 brimmed with tension and conflict that compelled everyone to the edge of their seats. The confrontation between Coach Jack Bolton, played by Dave Huerta, and Troy Bolton’s aspiration to sing and play basketball, caused tense reactions from the audience for Coach Bolton. Their disputes were so well-played you could feel the harsh disappointment in both Huerta’s and Vargas’ voices.

Dave Huerta, as Coach Jack Bolton, catches Troy and Chad Danforth (Joshua Castro) singing in detention with the thespians and brainiacs on Jan. 25 during dress rehearsal. Photo by Julia Wong.

Towards the middle of the act, Troy and Gabriella were cornered into criticizing each other by their friends and performed “When There Was Me and You”. Vargas and Garcia beautifully executed the heartbroken song with the spotlights on them. While the Jocks and the Brainiacs supported the leads vocally, the audience could genuinely detect the crushed emotions.

Garcia describes her mindset while performing emotional scenes all while in front of an audience.

“I just forget everything that’s happening in the outside world and ‘I am Gabriella’ and I’m solely focused on the show and not thinking about anything else,” said Garcia.

A full performance of Sharpay and Ryan dancing and singing to “Bop to the Top” in shimmering turquoise attire brought roaring cheers from the audience. It was difficult to not spot them, Rana’s dress and Lozano’s button-up were glistening in the spotlight. The pair’s stage presence overflowed with confidence.

Witnessing “We’re All in This Together” signified the end of their dedicated two-hour performance. The song brought both the cast and the audience together by clapping and singing along. It felt as if the cast was at their most confident performance at this point. The synchronized production of their last song brought a passionate and warm ending to the musical.

Once the musical was over, Junior Alicia Nguyen, depicts her overall experience.

“I really liked the ensemble and the entire cast singing together, I thought that it was a really good portrayal of everyone’s voices,” said Nguyen.

Performances were not the only factors in making such a memorable musical. The collaboration between the live music from the pit band and the work of technical theater’s lighting and audio alongside the cast brought the production to its fullest. The work of lighting successfully separated scenes, musical numbers, and in total complimented the work of the actors.

The only critiques were not the talent themselves, but the seating. While it is evident that students worked relentlessly in the face of their performances, it was hard to enjoy due to the seating arrangements. With chairs all being on the same level, it was difficult to see anything even being in just the second row. Lines were also not regulated, so cutting was an issue, leading parents and students who were waiting in line an hour beforehand to lose their opportunity to land front-row seats. Despite the unchangeable seating arrangements and difficulty of seeing the stage, the whole cafeteria was filled with the vocals of the cast.

The energy and talent that went into each performance were present all night. It felt like a professional production, and it’s completely sensible to say that it was.