Splinters Theatre Group’s High School Musical – 20 October 2022, Montgomery Theatre
Review by Jacob Bush.
High School Musical first burst onto our TV screens on the Disney Channel on 2006. Following two sequels, stage adaptations of the first two films and the new Disney+ series High School Musical the Musical the Series, the franchise and the stories have become a staple part of modern culture.
Splinters Theatre Group have returned to the Montgomery, after an extended Covid enforced absence, with their take on the stage adaptation of the first High School Musical film. This is a fun show with a book by David Simpatico. Simpatico’s adaptation is the biggest falling point of this show. The film has become so iconic and engrained in a certain generation’s brains. When the show gives us moments taken straight from the film, the audience eats them up. However, the new moments and new songs just don’t work as well.
Regardless of the weaknesses in the writing, this production is brilliant. Kate Parkin and Jill Beckett direct the show and clearly love the source material. They give the audience what they want whilst also giving the cast room to bring themselves into their performances. The band under the direction of Dominic Ridler sound great and he mixes between live music and pre-recorded tracks seamlessly. Katie Granger’s choreography is energetic and brilliantly performed. The basketball and cheerleading routines are particularly impressive, especially on such a heavily raked stage!
The show is led by Dan Rossiter as Troy Bolton and Faith Elizabeth Hardy as Gabriella Montez. The two are fantastic opposite each other and have a believable chemistry. Hardy’s vocals are stunning, with her rendition of When There Was You and Me being a delight to listen to. Rossiter’s vocals are incredibly powerful and he tackles the varied and challenging score admirably. Rossiter and Hardy blend and harmonise beautifully and are just great all-round leads.
Maisie Dyche and Arthur Woodward are a fun duo as the iconic brother and sister, Sharpay and Ryan Evans. Woodward is convincing as the brother who falls into his sister’s shadow most of the time, whilst Dyche is the perfect amount of evil. She really brings a fresh take on the role and never falls into copying the film.
Jake Newton and Jessica Smith are great together as Chad Danforth and Taylor McKessie. Although the cast may not be particularly diverse, they bring to life these popular characters really well. Smith has a great rapport with Hardy and Newton brings the perfect amount of swagger to the role of Chad. They both have powerful vocals and it is a shame they don’t get to sing more.
The cast is completed by a talented supporting cast. Wednesday Addis holds the audience in the palm of her hands in the new role of Jackie Scott, Lily Grayson’s Kelsi Nielson could have walked straight out of the movie and Josh Fishburn is just lovely as Zeke Baylor. James Parkin, as the oldest member of the cast, does a good job as Coach Bolton. The father-son relationship between him and Rossiter is completely believable and his more heated scenes with Caitlin Barwell as Ms Darbus are a highlight. Barwell’s performance is truly outstanding. She brings the iconic outlandishness that Ms Darbus is famous for whilst putting her own unique stamp on the role. There is a lot of heart and passion behind her performance and her clear love for the arts comes through in her characterisation.
High School Musical is great fun for all ages. The audience tonight had everyone from the youngest children, people in their 20s-30s who have grown up with the films and the grandparents of the cast! Everyone had a smile on their face as they left and you’re guaranteed to go away humming at least a few of the songs.