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'High School Musical,' packaged for the high school stage? What a concept

August 12, 2007|Lynn Smith

There appears to be no end in sight to the "High School Musical" phenomenon, now transformed into a stage musical and spreading to public school, community theater and professional stages across the country -- and the world.

In addition to an expected 2,000 licensed high school and amateur productions by the end of the year, a 60-city professional stage tour was launched last month in Chicago. The Broadway-style musical will be coming to Hollywood's Kodak Theatre in December at the same time local high school productions may also be taking place.

"We've all been looking for something like this. It's really hard to interest this generation in 'Fiddler on the Roof,' " said Ann Hunter, drama director of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, which this year staged the Disney theatrical adaptation along with crosstown Western Hills High for their annual joint summer production.

Reflecting the popularity of the TV movie, she said, twice as many kids showed up for the audition, and audiences overflowed a larger-than-usual venue chosen to accommodate the expected crowds. Following the boundary-crossing theme of the movie, more boys, even some athletes, showed up to sing and dance, she said.

Budget-challenged and struggling, the Texas school drama directors hope to leverage the enthusiasm surrounding the "High School Musical" phenomenon to build local support for their theater arts programs. Disney filmed a "documusical" of their production and a series of two-minute spots to help launch a theater grant initiative.

The Anaheim-based NAMM, an international music products association, will also help selected schools, as it did in Fort Worth, with costumes, makeup and lighting.

Steve Fickenger, vice president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said the play has been "hugely embraced" in Britain, Japan and Scandinavia. Eventually, he said, "the story will be told all over the world."

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