|Ripper (cello player)||Mackenzie Maula|
|Ms. Darbus||Lisa Suppan|
|Ms. Tenny||Jenny Minnich|
|Book and Music Director||Wendy Borst|
High School Musical Jr. showcases young performers
Posted by Kathy Lauer-Williams
"Disney's High School Musical Jr." recreates the popular movie in a showcase of young performers at the Pennsylvania Playhouse in Bethlehem through Sunday.
The show tells the story of Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, an unlikely couple from different cliques who connect when they both discover they like to sing. There is lots of singing in the show as well as energetic dance numbers where the cast of 28 featuring kids age 8 to 15 fill the stage.
Based on the Disney Channel movie "High School Musical," the show is the second in a new series of "junior" productions at the playhouse designed for young actors. It is fun to watch the students who all so obviously enjoy what they are doing.
Kimberly Casey, a freshman at Whitehall High School, is charming as math-whiz Gabriella and has a sweet singing voice. As Gabriella's love interest basketball player Troy, Nitshcmann eighth-grader Evan Burlew gives an understated quality to the conflicted student.
Lynsey Jeffery, a seventh grader from Kutztown and Luke Csordas,a fifth grader from Macungie, shine as theater star Sharpay and her satorically dressed brother Ryan. The pair steal the scene every time they appear. Jeffrey is deliciosuly wicked as the show's resident bad girl and Csordas makes the most of his role as her yes man brother.
Other standouts are Blake Dennis as the school DJ Jack Scott whose deadpan delivery of his lines drew plenty of laughs and Molly Kennedy, a Liberty freshman who gave an added dimension to her portrayal of Gabriella's braniac friend Taylor.
Some of the young actors struggled a bit with their vocals but was redeemed during the cast's many ensemble numbers. Some of the funnier scenes included an impromptu method acting class during detention that had kids crawling and slithering around on the floor like animals, and the audition for the school musical in which a string of actors gave hilariously "bad" auditions. Lisa Suppen gave a humorous turn as Ms. Darbus the overenthusiastic theater teacher who was all too willing to collect the student's cell phones.
The simple stage set that stood in as a gym, theater and classroom was effective and the direction by Wendy Borst and choreography by Stacy Gabel kept the action moving.