Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

High energy display from class of 2011

Georgia Towler (Sharpay) in full voice in High School Musical

Disney's High School Musical

Youth Onstage

Old Rep, Birmingham


YOU go to see this company in this show – and what happens? You get all you expect, both from the show and the talented youngsters presenting it. Great stuff! 

The sound did not always do them justice on the first night, but what mattered was the energy and joy that never flagged, and – perhaps above all – the happiness that shone through. Director Deb Brook, who founded the group in 2002, has a great little gang whose enthusiasm fairly fizzes. 

At the centre of the action, in this story of (not very serious) conflict between the American school basketball team and the theatrical group – while the scientists press on regardless in their white coats – are Adam Brown (Troy, the basketball guy) and Hannah Brook (Gabriella, who is needed for a school version of something that was originally Shakespearian). This is an attractive pairing and they respond splendidly to the many opportunities they have in a succession of musical numbers. 


Also in fine form are Georgia Towler (Sharpay) and Alick Draper, as Ryan, her twin brother. Both have an eye for comedy and he is particularly outstanding in camping up his opportunities and earning the laughter he receives. Meanwhile, Eleanor Snowdon (Taylor), teams attractively with Dominic Alexander Harris (Chad). 

It is good to see Jasmine Rawlins (Ms Darbus) shedding her adult responsibilities as a teacher to join the rest of the company in the exuberant song-and-dance routines, and Hannah Thomas makes shyness an art form as Kelsie, the creator of the school musical.   

James Prescott pops up intermittently in the unrewarding role as the student with the microphone and Gwill Milton is Coach Bolton. 

This is a production, incidentally, which has one character unusually called Kelsie – and one cast member called Kelsie who plays two parts. Musical direction is by Andy Johnson. The company exudes the sheer pleasure of being involved in an energy-sapping show which is expertly punctuated by choreographer Suzy Petty's exhilarating inventions, and it gets away with doing a disjointed flurry of waves at the end because it is such a happy production – but it should not become a habit, because it is a habit that eats into the professionalism of what has gone before. To 07-05-11.

John Slim 

Meanwhile class - settle down at the back . . .

THIS cult Disney musical has a huge following of young people around the globe, and professional productions in the Midlands always pull them in.

But Youth Onstage's lively version, with a cast whose ages range from 10 to 20, proves that youngsters can also present the story of life at East High with remarkable skill and enthusiasm.

In fact they pass the test with distinction and deserve a much larger audience than turned up on opening night.

Director Deb Brook – who is a head teacher from Tamworth –  has now directed more than 40 shows for companies in Birmingham and Solihull, and her stamp of quality is all over this one.

The acting and singing are of a high quality, and Suzy Petty's choreography is impressive, too, as the students attempt to cope with the demands of a science decathlon, auditions for a musical, and preparations for a basketball championship – plus personal relationships.

Adam Brown and Hannah Brook are well matched as Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, the school's basketball skipper and the intelligent science student, and there is some perfectly timed comedy from Alick Draper and Georgia Towler, the plotting twins Ryan and Sharpay Evans.

There is also a remarkable performance from Jasmine Rawlins, playing determined drama teacher Ms Darbus.

Andy Johnson is musical director of High School Musical. To 07.05.11

Paul Marston 

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate