Upper School Presents High School Musical

Junior Katie reviews Hockaday/St. Mark’s Upper School’s production of “High School Musical”

As the drama teacher Ms. Darbus so eloquently declared, “Proximity to the arts is cleansing for the soul.” And indeed, I felt my soul cleansed after experiencing the Thursday night showing of this year’s Upper School musical production of Disney’sHigh School Musical.”

As a seasoned fan of Hockaday/St. Mark’s musical productions, I have seen the past five years of winter muse-si-cals and have viewed the occasional spring play (“Noises Off!” still holds a fond place in my heart.) Thus, I will not act surprised at the talent of this year’s group or the caliber of achievement they reached when producing a musical already so loved (and so memorized) as HSM. This goes to show that no musical, no production, no franchise stands too large for this team to attempt and present.

The ensemble, for one, performed well. Some parts were more inadvertently comical, such as the basketball scenes and “Get Your Head in the Game,” but I would never hold their athletic skills (or lack thereof) against them. The chorus quickly redeemed itself with the portrayals of the drama club geeks and various other cliques in the cafeteria. And the ensemble’s “Bop to the Top” was one of the strongest comedic and vocal numbers in the show. It really demonstrated the talent of those not yet old enough for the main roles.

Now on to the leads… After just one over-articulated and dramatic Ms. Darbus line, I knew that the role of this high school drama teacher had been created solely for actress senior Natalie. Not even former St. Mark’s student Christian Larrave in “Seussical” in 2011 won as many laughs from the audience as Natalie did. The hand gestures, the sneaking up behind Gabriella and Troy during their rehearsals and the onstage theatre warm-ups convinced me (and the rest of the audience, judging by the roars of laughter) that the real drama teacher from the movie is, in fact, a fraud, rather than the original. Natalie is Darbus; Darbus is Natalie.

Our two love birds seniors Taubert (Troy) and Charlotte (Gabriella) brought the heat, to say the least, and had much more chemistry than any onstage couple from past productions (at least in my memory). Props to Taubert for fearlessly straightening his hair in attempts to mirror the Beatle-like do of Troy Bolton, and may I say his bravery paid off. Evidently, Taubert spent hours trying to mimic the facial expressions and athleticism of Zac Efron, and his hard work was clear in his portrayal of the basketball jock.

Which brings me to my other point… each lead had a great amount of physical likeness to their character. Senior Ashley as blonde, boisterous, talented Sharpay and Charlotte as brunette, timid, intelligent Gabriella both really embodied their movie personas and were the two most vocally precise of the cast and astounded the audience: Ashley, with her powerhouse voice and Charlotte, with her delicate trills.

While the four performers previously mentioned have graced the Hocka-stage multiple times, a new up-and-comer literally jazz-squared his way to the spotlight. A star was born this weekend in green and blue patterned plants and a purple v-neck sweater. St. Mark’s freshman Link brought such joy and vocal precision to every scene, and his final solo reminded me of why I like the character of Ryan so much. While Sharpay represents the technicality of theatricality, Ryan brings the fun and rhythm. And so did Link in this performance. I look forward to his next three years and the consistency and entertainment he’ll bring to each male lead he earns.

It will be hard for the Hockaday/St. Mark’s Drama program to match what they delivered this year, but with returning stars, such as Link and a whole crowd of underclassmen ready to take on lead roles, I remain hopeful that I will see another successful year in the thea-tuh.

-Katie