SCT's artistic director Linda Hartzell doesn't just dash off this live version but stages it with a young, vivacious, professional cast. And with lively dance numbers, snazzy sets and costumes, and snappy humor.

Share story

Is Seattle Children’s Theatre selling out by opening its 2007-08 season with “Disney’s High School Musical”?

That commercial Disney blockbuster — a hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show cable TV movie retrofitted with modern attitudes and pop-inflected tunes — has been seen by many millions. The 2006 film has already spawned two sequels, and the title alone would sell a slew of tickets.

But happily, this is no sellout. SCT’s artistic director Linda Hartzell doesn’t just dash off this live version but stages it with a young, vivacious, professional cast. And with lively dance numbers, snazzy sets and costumes, and snappy humor.

If the musical’s plot is pat and predictable … well, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” comes later in SCT’s season.

One of numerous recent, Broadway-style romps aimed at adolescents, “High School Musical” rounds up the usual suspects in this genre — studious new kid in town, hunky jock, some maybe-gay misfits — and gets them excited about trying out for a school show, “Juliet and Romeo.”

Shy, brainy Gabriella (Kasey Nusbickel) and basketball star Troy (standout Jason Kappus), are drawn to each other despite different interests and pressure from opposing cliques.

Sharpay is a vacuous baddie who schemes to ace Gabriella out of Troy’s affections and the school show’s lead role. Enacted by the over-the-top Khanh Doan (she could relax a little), the archetypal fashionista meanie should be voted Most Annoying Role.

Otherwise, David Simpatico’s script is amusing and sweet. An abundant score (by more than a dozen composers, so we won’t list them all) is upbeat, polished, at times witty.

Though too heavily miked, the big cast gets good live backup from musical director Mark Rabe and combo. And ensemble numbers like “Stick to the Status Quo” and “We’re All In This Together” are jet-powered by Kathryn Van Meter’s choreography. “Get’cha Head in the Game” also excites, with its spinning, dribbling and passing basketball moves.

Adults take note: “High School Musical” is not a carbon copy of the movie — though that may be what kids may want. And it’s aimed at the 8-to-12 set, not high-schoolers.

The story’s messages aim to soothe anxieties of youths looking ahead to the social challenges of older adolescence. And two scrappy but well-meaning adults, the impassioned drama teacher (neatly played by quick-quipping Jayne Muirhead) and a sports coach (played by John Patrick Lowrie), are essentially supportive.

There are echoes here of “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Fame,” even old Annette and Frankie flicks. And this show ties things up just as neatly as they did, when not making everybody a winner would be more honest.

But this is “Disney’s High School Musical,” after all. And for less rosy endings, there’s always “Hamlet.”

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com