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Concert Reviews:
"High School Musical" Earns Passing Grade At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2007

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AUBURN HILLS -- As theater goes, Disney's "High School Musical" makes Andrew Lloyd Webber look like Rogers and Hart.

But as a vehicle to entertain the kiddies, it blows the circuses, ice shows and "Sesame Street" stage spectaculars right off the boards.

With the Palace still buzzing about the official addition of Chris Webber to the Pistons, the in-the-flesh version of the phenomenon -- "High School Musical: The Concert" -- slam-dunked a sell-out crowd of more than 15,000, mostly vociferous tweens and younger who sang every lyric and mimed every dance step, just like they've been trained to do by heavy doses of the Emmy Award-nominated Disney Channel movie and, no doubt, endless viewings of the DVD and listens to the triple-platinum CD. Not surprisingly, there was a loud ovation when Lucas Gabreel, who plays Ryan Evans, asked how many of the fans were at their first concert.

The 95-minute show, which featured four other cast members besides Evans, was stylish and crisply choreographed, referencing and celebrating the movie without not replaying the movie. Along with Drew Seeley -- a singer in his own right who co-wrote the "High School Musical" hit "Get'cha Head in the Game" -- and a troupe of dancers, they ran through live and lip-synced performances every song from the soundtrack, including elaborate dance productions for "Start of Something New" and "We're All in This Together," while "Stick to the Status Quo" mixed scenes from the movie with live action on stage. Gabreel and Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay Evans) were a sharp dance team on "Bop to the Top" and "What I've Been Looking For," and "Get'cha Head in the Game" culminated with plastic inflatable basketballs being thrown into the crowd.

The concert also gave the individual cast members a chance to strut their stuff. Tisdale and Corbin Bleu (Chad) previewed songs from their upcoming albums. Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella Montez), sang a trio of tracks from her CD "V." Monique Coleman (Taylor) reprised one of her routines from "Dancing With the Stars" and Seeley, who proved an able stand-in for the film's Zac Efron (Troy Bolton), who's been filming "Hairspray," sang "Dance With Me," his hit from "Cheetah Girls 2."

The tinge of synergistic commercial cross-pollination did put a layer of crass, Buy Disney pandering on the otherwise engaging evening. Genial emcee Gabreel "interviewed" each of the performers after their showcase moments, making sure to hype their other endeavors. Opening act Jordan Pruitt pushed her upcoming album, and during intermission the video screens sold everything from Disney Mobile to a forthcoming "High School Musical" video game and the Disney Channel's latest movie, the Bleu-starring "Jump In." There apparently wasn't time for public service messages about not smoking or taking drugs -- or maybe those problems simply don't exist in the Disney universe.

But it would be hard to find anyone at the Palace on Tuesday who would give "High School Musical: The Concert" anything less than Honor Roll grades. And it certainly insured their loyalty for the sequel, "High School Musical: School's Out for Summer," later this year.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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