Two musicals in April will have audiences singing and swaying to oldies-but-goodies, while reliving the exuberant freedom of college life in the 60s.
Feet will most assuredly be tapping to popular tunes interwoven between the emotionally-charged high school reality of peer pressure and the desire to be liked.
Golden Chain Theatre will offer well-known rock n’ roll oldies in “Shake,” an original musical, written by James Mierkey and Jennifer Piccolotti. The show, which runs April 1-17, features a live classic rock band and a youthful, high energy, 28-person cast. The production will give audiences a glimpse of college life in 1964.
But before college, there’s those high school days, and the Yosemite High School Theater students will present five performances of the Disney classic, “High School Musical,” April 13-16. The production is about life as juniors wanting to fit in, while struggling to remain individuals.
A Disney classic at YHS
It’s teenage drama at its best, complete with cliques, clubs, and stereotypical teachers at East High School, all set to music in the Disney classic, “High School Musical,” about high school juniors wanting to fit in, while remaining individuals.
For older audiences, it’s reminiscent of those earth-shattering teen years, where emotions rage and everything is blown to catastrophic proportions.
A Disney classic, “High School Musical” tells the story of two high school juniors from rival cliques.
Beautiful, shy newcomer, Gabriella (Gianna DeFelice) and basketball star and favored jock, Troy (Alex Williams) try out for lead parts in East High’s musical, which divides the school.
Gabriella and Troy develop a friendship, sticking together, and resisting peer pressure to follow the “status quo.”
Meanwhile, jealous diva Sharpay (Elise Keeler) stirs up trouble by spreading lies to sabotage their friendship, desperate to get a lead in the school’s musical herself. Gabriella’s best friend, Taylor (Mackenzie Behrens) doesn’t like Sharpay, or Troy’s best friend, Chad (Dylan Thacker) - that is, before she falls for him.
In every story, there’s a hero, and in this one, it’s Sharpay’s twin brother, Ryan (Kevin Kirk) who saves the day, exposing his sister’s lies, which finally ends the conflict.
The production, directed by YHS Theater Arts teacher Lars Thorson, features favorite songs, including “Getcha Head in the Game,” “Stick to the Status Quo,” and “We’re all in this Together.”
This stage version is based on the 2006 made-for-television movie, which became a successful franchise, spawning two major movie sequels - High School Musical 2 (2007) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008), as well as launching the careers of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
Featuring choreography by YHS alum Karen Urrutia, Jackie Byers as vocal coach, and musical tracks created by Golden Chain Theatre’s James Mierkey, this is the fifth musical YHS has performed under Thorson, and the first time recorded tracks will be used rather than a live orchestra.
“This is really different from using a live band,” Thorson said. “The kids are singing to recorded tracks, which is harder because you can’t adjust the timing. When the music starts, the singing starts ... that’s it.
“I’m very lucky that our community has such talents as James and Karen. The old saying is that it takes a village to create a musical, and they have certainly been instrumental in getting this show on its feet.”
With 38 performers and a backstage crew of six to run the production, “High School Musical” is quite easily the largest show in terms of cast size that YHS has produced in recent memory. Other than Keeler, none of the other cast members have ever sung in public, or had singing lessons. Still they are excited, and up for the challenge.
“This is definitely awesome,” DeFelice said. “I’ve always loved ‘High School Musical,’ and ever since I was little, I wanted to be Gabriella. I like how she’s so smart, and shy, and likes to sing. We’re very similar.”
For Keeler, it was Sharpay.
“I’ve dreamed of playing Sharpay since the movie came out,” Keeler explained. “I like comedic parts, and this is a role I can do a lot with. I get to play Gabriella’s rival - a mean girl - and I’m having lots of fun with that.”
A twinge of nervousness played second fiddle to all the fun cast members were having.
“The experience has given me a lot of confidence,” Behrens said. “It’s fun to play different roles I won’t ever experience in real life.”
Thacker is equally excited, adding, “This is really different from just learning lines ... I’m a little nervous, but not too much.”
“We have to learn song lyrics and dance numbers,” said Kirk, who is as nice as his twin is malicious, “but it’s pretty fun.”
Thorson looked to both the past and the future in making this musical selection.
“I chose ‘High School Musical’ because it came out 10 years ago when my current students were children, 5-8 years of age. Many of them loved this show, so it seemed like a good choice to do something they knew from their childhood,” Thorson said. “I hope our production will introduce the show to a whole new generation of young people.”
Believing in the importance of offering elementary schoolers a sneak peek, the cast will present a mini-version (a 25-minute preview) on April 8 to all the schools that feed into YHS - Wasuma Elementary, Oakhurst Elementary, Oak Creek Intermediate, Coarsegold Elementary and and Rivergold.
“High School Musical” performances are 7 p.m., April 13-16, with a special matinee at 1 p.m. on April 16. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students without ASB and $5 for students with ASB or children under 14.
Details: (559) 683-4667.
College life in 1964 will never be the same for a group of students who must learn how to accept differences in others, and how to come together to fight for what they believe in.
Set to music from that era, “Shake” offers 24 memorable songs by well-known artists, including The Beatles (”Yesterday,” “She Loves You”), Dave Clark Five (Do You Love Me?), The Kinks (”You Really Got Me”), Diana Ross and the Supremes (”Where Did Our Love Go”), Gerry and the Pacemakers (“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”), The Tempatations (“The Way You Do The things You Do”), and “Shake” by Sam Cooke.
Cast members include Karen Maraya, Jennifer Moore, Lyric Piccolotti, Erik Sotelo, JR Romero, Amber Persson, and Alli Ruiz along with many more GCT new and familiar faces.
Details and tickets: www.goldenchaintheatre.org.