Review: Chill with ‘High School Musical’

Could anything be sweeter than “High School Musical"? Possibly “High School Musical: The Ice Tour,” which closes its Oakland engagement today and moves to San Jose’s HP Pavilion next week.

The show is a happy fest for all. At Thursday’s Bay Area opening, kids of all colors, their parents — and, seemingly inexplicably, some young adults without children — were thrilled to be in attendance, singing along to the incredibly generic pop tunes, waving to their favorite characters and simply celebrating being themselves and all the good things in life.

Even the glossy 28-page color program sings when you open it up. (Getting the device to stop, however, proved difficult.)

The show’s presenters, Feld Entertainment and Kenny Ortega, know what a hit they have on their hands and wisely refrain from veering from the phenomenally successful original Disney TV movies.

Act 1 of the ice tour closely follows the first “High School Musical,” in which basketball player Troy and academic Gabriella challenge the status quo when they audition for the East High musical. Likewise, Act 2 closely covers “High School Musical 2,” taking place on a summer vacation when the East High Wildcats work and play at a country club.

It’s hard to be a grump at “High School Musical”; much of its charm comes from the fact that such wholesome (and admittedly bland) fare is ironically popular in this era in which little kids have become cynics.

Because the franchise is such a well-known commodity and because the audience is so in synch with the plot, the “ice show” part of the program, sadly, almost gets lost.

It’s too bad, because the performers surpass the challenge of the material.

Jumping, spinning and doing stunts often seen in international competition, the skaters in the cast are amazing athletes: Jordan Brauninger as heartthrob Troy; Lane Walker as smart, sweet Gabriella, Sandy Rucker as egoist thespian Sharpay, Bonard Muck as her dramatic brother Ryan; Simeon Hanks as sports-minded Chad, and Tetona Jackson as the all-around Taylor. Laura Doty, in the less-skating intensive but crucial role of Kelsi, the creative person who drives the high school musical, also is excellent.

The production, designed by Jeremy Railton, has just enough glitz and special effects to keep modern kids amused, as do the chic, enviable costumes by “Topaz” Erin Lareau. Note to the folks in marketing: A clothing line based on the fashions ought to do well at Target.

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