Wednesday, June 16

Beef and Boards: High School Musical

Proving that theater isn't just for adults, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre once again demonstrates its ability to find a way to introduce live arts to the below 21 age group.

Disney's High School Musical, seen everywhere from the television to the ice rinks, is now being performed as a live production. Basketball heroes, cheerleaders, shallow drama queens and science geeks converged on the north side of Indy.

A sweeter, less foul-mouthed storyline similar to The Breakfast Club, (1985) showcases the stereotype teens afraid of asserting their independence against authority figures. Without the hard, and more likely scenarios in the typical high school, these teens don't swear, smoke marijuana or ridicule janitors. They do, however, dance, sing and juggle basketballs in unison.

The message is strikingly the person you want to be, regardless of what peers and adults want. With the jocks, the drama kids and the brainiacs, the show attempts to give a good idea of school cliques, both kids and adults.

Basketball hero Troy Bolton (Tim Barsten) and science and math whiz Gabriella Montez (Jessica Ann Murphy) dare to follow their hearts and cross the line by mustering up the courage to tell their friends they want to be in the school drama performance. Murphy's vocals, Start of Something New, were certainly the best of the evening. Bolton in the duet with Murphy, gained confidence as the show went along.

Eddie Curry, director, and Ron Morgan, choreographer, make excellent use of space allotted by a theater, instead of movie, stage. Divvying up the set into thirds executes the science lab, gymnasium and drama room convincingly.

Scenic and lighting designer, Michael Layton creates a dynamic solution to a difficult situation. Back-and-forth moving between the various areas of the school could have been bothersome to the audience and actors alike. However, his design smooths the seams nicely, with extra input from a local Brownsburg teen.

Tim Hills was born with an extra challenge allowing him the edge to solve complex stage settings. With Cerebral Palsy giving him the needed push to focus intently on using his only usable finger, Hills concentrates on one problem at a time. Sending a letter to Layton, the west-side youth explained in detail how best to set up the stage for maximum benefit. Layton met with Hills and solicited him as the show's scenic design associate.

Destination Actor Jeff Stockberger portrays the headstrong head coach and Troy's dad perfectly, mellowing out at the end and giving a little taste of his comedic timing. Bantering with Ms. Darbus the drama coach, played by Karen Pappas, allowed the two to demonstrate their comedic chemistry. Another show with just the two of them would not be out of order, if the amount of audience laughter indicative of success.

Other notables include, J. Tyler Whitmer as Ryan Evans and Shavanna A. Calder as Taylor McKessie.

Bottom Line: This made-for-kids popular show teaches a great and positive lesson in an entertaining way.

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Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. You can now follow her on facebook and catch her as Indy's Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show, giving a quick Gotta Go list of things to do in the Indy area, including restaurants, festivals, events, theater, and films.

**This column was published in the following newspapers: West Side Community News, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times-Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter, New Palestine Reporter

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