By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Mark your calendars for Greenville Middle School’s upcoming production of Disney’s High School Musical JR. ©Disney, based on the Disney Channel movie written by Peter Barsocchini and book by David Simpatico. Opening night at St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville will be Friday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. with two additional shows on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets will be $6 at the door and on sale 45 minutes prior to show time.
According to MTIshows.com, “We’re all in this together in Disney Channel’s smash hit musical phenomenon featuring the students of East High. Troy, Gabriella, and the students of East High must deal with issues of love, friends, and family while balancing their classes and extra curricular activities. The show’s infectious, danceable songs are sure to engage performers and audiences alike,” with songs by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil; Ray Cham, Greg Cham, and Andrew Seeley; Randy Petersen and Kevin Quinn; Andy Dodd and Adam Watts; Bryan Louiselle; David N. Lawrence and Faye Greenberg; and Jamie Houston. Music adapted, arranged, and produced by Bryan Louiselle.
“It’s the first day after winter break at East High. The Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians, and Skater Dudes all find their cliques. Basketball team captain and resident jock, Troy, discovers that the brainy Gabriella, a girl he met singing karaoke on his ski trip, has just enrolled at East High. The couple cause an upheaval when they decide to audition for the high school musical. Although many students resent the threat posed to the ‘status quo,’ Troy and Gabriella’s alliance might just open the door for others to shine as well,” MTIshows.com details.
Support the large middle school cast, including the following GMS students in their featured roles:
Emily McLear stars as Gabriella Montez, the new student who doesn’t fully identify with any of the cliques and who’s struggling to find her place at East High.
McLear said, “This performance is gonna be interesting because it’s not just people who are super experienced. It’s some first-year people, some people who have been doing plays for two years, and some who have been performing for six or seven years. It’s all combined, and there’s no bias in what we do.”
Grant Fisher debuts as Troy Bolton, the most popular student at East High and star of the basketball team. Troy yearns to be more than what others want him to be.
Fisher admitted, “I’m a little nervous because I’ve never been in a play before. My dad showed me High School Musical [the movie], and I fell in love with the characters.” Fisher is very happy with his decision to join theater this year, stating, “You get to meet knew people you never thought you’d know or become friends with.”
Meadow Murphy plays Sharpay Evans, the dramatic and self-centered star of the East High musicals.
Murphy has three years of experience backing her performance this season. She said, “This has been our best play so far. It sounds really good! All the stuff we do is really modern, and it kinda hooks people.”
Shane Gilman debuts as Ryan Evans, Sharpay’s fraternal twin. Subordinate to his sister, Ryan generally follows Sharpay’s orders and lets her have the spotlight, but he longs to break free from her shadow and assert himself.
Gilman explained how he came to audition for this year’s play. “So, this has been my first year in theater, and my friend Reese [Stewart], pulled me into this wonderful adventure. At first, I did not know my feelings about High School Musical because, obviously, some parts are ‘iffy.’” At which point the cast members all began to complain about the grotesque nature of PDA, or public displays of affection, for all the non-Gen Zers out there.
“It’s so baaaad!”
“It’s so cheesy!” the group roared.
“Holding hands is ‘ewwww’!”
“At least you don’t have to hug two girls!” The young actors exclaimed with feigned disgust.
Shane continued, “Still, it’s a wonderful experience with your friends. No regrets!”
Jack Gathard brings to life Chad Danforth, sports fanatic. Focused on winning the basketball championship, Chad slowly begins to understand that there might be more to life than basketball.
Gathard said, “I feel like this play is more for our age group. It’s probably the first one we’ve done that’s for high-schoolers or junior-highers. All the others have been us playing older characters or younger characters.”
Reese Stewart plays Taylor McKessie, the very put-together president of the Science Club. Taylor is super-assertive and very intent on Gabriella joining the Science Decathlon team so they can (finally!) win the competition.
Stewart, a veteran of the stage at both GMS and Final Bow said, “I feel like it’s going along really well, and it’s very exciting. It’s so fun, and I’m actually so glad we did this play.”
She added, “Everybody should come because High School Musical is fun, it’s well-known, and everybody will be excited, and the audience can even sing along because they’ll LOVE it!”
The young actors had only excellent things to say about their theater experience at GMS under the direction of Kari Thompson, stating, “This is a great group to be around. There’s no bullying in theater; there’s nothing like that.”
Another student added, “It’s a great self-esteem boost. There’s no judgment in that room. You go in there and have a voice crack; nobody laughs, they just say, ‘Try again.’”
“We all support each other. We’re like a family,” came a third voice.
Several eighth graders answered with certainly regarding their plans to continue acting in high school:
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!”
“A thousand times, ‘Yes!’”
Words of advice from the stars of this year’s production?: “Join theater next year!”
Disney’s High School Musical JR. ©Disney is presented through special arrangement with and all authorized materials are supplied by Music Theatre International, New York, N.Y., at 212-541-4684 | MTIshows.com.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.