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Bryn Higdon, left, Madeline Burkehardt and Casey Crump practice a scene from 'High School Musical,' which will be at Princess Theatre on Oct. 12-14. The play is being performed by Backstage Theatre Co. with Darren Butler directing.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Bryn Higdon, left, Madeline Burkehardt and Casey Crump practice a scene from "High School Musical," which will be at Princess Theatre on Oct. 12-14. The play is being performed by Backstage Theatre Co. with Darren Butler directing.

High school musical is in session
Musical reminds young people of these important lessons: Be your own person and be true to yourself

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

The Jocks, Brainiacs, Thespians, Skater Dudes and other cliques will compete for attention next week in four performances of Disney's "High School Musical On Stage."

Darren Butler of Backstage Theatre Co. in Decatur will direct a cast of 34 young people, who also take directions from the actors playing their basketball coach and drama teacher.

The message this play brings to all pre-teens, teens and young adults is an important one, Butler said.

"At first I thought it was one of those sappy scripts, but then I realized that the music is contagious and the message is good," he said.

"It addresses how we treat each other and how people like the character Sharpay are sometimes so driven they will do anything."

Butler said the star basketball player, Troy, who tries out for the East High musical, "is so pulled between what he wants to be and what his dad, the coach, wants him to be, that there's a tremendous message there for our young people: Be your own person. Be true to yourself and honest with yourself."

Disney's "High School Musical On Stage" is a popular musical for schools to perform right now. That trend will probably continue, since a Disney Channel sequel, "High School Musical 2," came out in August.

Decatur's Dreamweavers theater group staged the show in July with a cast of students from around the county and beyond.

Butler, who was already making plans for his group's show before that, said many teens can't get enough of "High School Musical."

"Even if you've seen the movie, there is nothing that can replace the excitement of a show like this," he said. "It moves and has an air of excitement about it, and people are going to love it. This is community theater at its best."

Choreographer Susan Kirkes "has taken kids who do not dance at all and made them look good," said Butler. But instead of using a soundtrack, Mitch Schuster put together a group of musicians to provide live music, with Debra Davenport as accompanist.

Butler's favorite songs are "When There Was Me and You" and "We're Almost Together."

The latter "is almost like a song from 'Grease' and carries you back to your teenage years," he said.

"The creators probably had 'Grease' in mind, but this musical is squeaky Disney clean — far cleaner than 'Grease.' "

The music is "challenging," Butler said, and also includes songs such as "Stick to the Status Quo," "We're All in This Together" and "Breaking Free."

The dance scenes are favorites of some of the cast members.

"I've never really danced before," said Daniel Martin, who plays Ryan Evans and has plenty of stage experience.

“I really like the audition scenes where Sharpay and I dance and sing. But this musical also has a good story to it, and any age will like this show.”

Anna Laura Bryan, who plays Sharpay Evans, is reprising her role from a recent DreamWeavers performance of “High School Musical.”

Jack Palmer, who plays athlete Zeke Baylor, likes the play’s message that teens can come out of their shells and try different things.

“If Troy can do it, anybody can do it,” he said, referring to Tucker Hammock, who plays basketball star Troy Bolton and tries out for the school musical.

Bridget Lappert, who plays Gabriella Montez, said she falls in love with Troy after coming to this new school where everybody is already in a clique.

“I’m shy at the beginning, but by the end I’ve broken out of my shell,” she said.

Mackenzie Walker, as Brainiac Taylor McKessie, said it’s a different type role for her, too.

“She’s definitely into her clique and won’t venture outside it, but by the end she realizes she shouldn’t judge others but try to be friends with everybody,” she said.

Shea Glenn, as Ms. Darbus, the drama teacher, presides over auditions for the school musical and organizes her cast with ease. “You have given me hope for the future of American theater,” she tells them in her lines after tryouts.

Rod Hayes, as Coach Bolton, said he must stay on his athletes — and especially his son — to keep them focused on the championship game ahead, rather than a musical.

“I don’t get along with the drama teacher, and I don’t agree with my son, who thinks he can be a singer and actor and basketball star, too. I stay on him to play ball,” said Hayes.

This cast includes residents of Muscle Shoals, Cullman, Russellville, Madison and Athens, as well as Decatur, Trinity, Hartselle and elsewhere.

If you go

What: “Disney’s High School Musical Onstage” performed by Backstage Theatre Co.

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13 and 2 p.m. Oct. 13 and 14

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $10 general admission, available at the Princess Theatre box office, 340-1778, and through its Web site,, and, through Friday, at Studio One, 214 E. Moulton St., 309-0041

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