Friday, August 18, 2006

Disney doings

"High School Musical" becomes a High School Musical
There surely has never been a more natural story to make the transition from screen to stage than "High School Musical."

The movie tells a heartfelt tale of a bookish girl, an athletic boy, and the musical production that takes them out of their separate worlds to bring them together on stage. It practically cries out to be performed by real high-school students as a real high-school musical, a case of life imitating art imitating the life that's the subject of the art ... well, we feel a little dizzy now, Editor's Note: Me too. Although that might just be the sugar rush I get from reading these insulin-required PR missives from the MouseHappyPlace machine. but suffice to say that it's a smashing idea.

And it struck the folks at Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theatre International the same way - which is why, starting this fall, schools and other young people's theatrical groups can perform "High School Musical" onstage.

All the songs (and two new ones! Editor's Note: Wow! Let's use lots of exclamation points like a pre-teen diary!!!! ), all the fun, and all the sweet lightheartedness are there.

We spoke to vice president of theatrical licensing Steve Fickinger and he gave us the scoop on the stage version of this hit. It hardly needs to be said that "High School Musical" is nothing short of a phenomenon - this Disney Channel original movie, which aired for the first time in January 2006, has sparked a huge response among kids and adults alike. And the soundtrack CD has dominated the charts ever since it was released. Steve believes he knows the reason the music of "High School Musical" strikes such a chord.

"A lot of people have speculated about the popularity of the soundtrack, and I think it comes down to the fact that it's just good music! It's melodic, it's hooky, it's infectious. The lyrics and melodies stick with you. It's rhythmic, it's just pop music at its most completely appealing." Editor's Note: Please note that that is 'hooky' NOT hookERy. Just so's ya know.....

And all that glorious music is present in the adaptation - in fact, Steve says the songs play an even stronger role in advancing the story.

"Bryan Louiselle, who did the music adaptation, did a wonderful job theatricalizing the music, so that these wonderful pop confections from the phenomenally successful record, have been expanded or adapted. That's not an easy thing to do!" Editor's Note: NO. He had to use all his fingers and toes and even his BRAIN!

The two new songs are "Cell Phone Fusion," in which phone calls race around the school as students let each other know that Gabby and Troy have made the callbacks, and "We're Counting on You," which Steve calls "a classic musicalization of a scripted moment."

In addition to the new songs, the stage version of "High School Musical" features other changes to make the story work well as live theater. Theater groups can choose from two versions of the play. One runs about an hour long, around the same length as the film -- the other is a 120-minute expanded version. Both versions are available with a CD containing all the musical accompaniment for the songs, so no live orchestra is required. Editor's Note: Full-Service proselytizing. Bless the little mouse....

"I believe the adaptation really sets theater groups up for success," says Steve. The longer version gave book adaptor David Simpatico a chance to expand the story and spend more time with the characters. "We wanted the people who fell in love with the film to come to the theater and see the characters, the songs, the situations, that they loved in the movie onstage," Steve tells us. "But we didn't want to just take the script from the film and find ways to make it work on the stage. I told the writers that we wanted the new lines and new scenes to feel like a part of the film that you just didn't see."

On October 1, theater groups and schools everywhere will be able to license the scripts and music to bring their own "High School Musical" to life. Editor's Note: I wonder how many versions of this those of us doing High School Musical Tommy Tune Awards judging are going to see next year? Sigh..... At least it's not "Cats"?


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