Thanks to Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival for providing us with review tickets for High School Musical On Stage
After two years of the pandemic, it’s great to see Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival back in its home at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens. The 2022 festival has already seen Blackadder Goes Forth, Twelfth Night and Under Milk Wood, as well as a series of comedy nights. Today was the opening day of Little Shop of Horrors, as well as the festival’s annual production for families, Disney High School Musical On Stage.
The festival’s family shows are always an absolute highlight of our summer and we’ve loved all the past productions we’ve seen, including Beauty and the Beast Jnr, The Little Mermaid Jnr, Peter Pan Jnr, Aladdin Jn, Seussical Jnr and among others.
As with past productions, High School Musical On Stage is a specially-abridged version of the much-loved Disney film, running at just over an hour in length and performed by a cast of talented local young people from Cardiff’s Go Theatre.
As fans of the much-loved 2006 film will know, High School Musical is set in East High where Troy Bolton, captain of the school’s basketball team, and Gabriella Montez, an academically-gifted transfer student, try out for lead parts in their school musical, causing division among the school’s cliques. As well as a love story, there’s an overriding message that you don’t have to conform: it’s okay to be yourself, to try new things, to follow your heart.
Under the guidance of director Emma-Jayne Parker (with this her eighth family show for the festival) Go Theatre’s production is fast-paced, vibrant, and so joyful.
Mitchell Attley and Rachel Goulding play Troy and Gabriella. Stepping into the roles made famous by Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens can’t be easy but these two are a fantastic pairing, charismatic, likeable, and with top notch vocals in their duets Start of Something New and Breaking Free, one of the most famous songs from the film.
Cadi Mullane is Sharpay Evans, the self-obsessed president of the drama society who will do anything to bag the leading role, while Ethan Davies plays her twin brother Ryan. We’ve seen Mullane in various other Festival shows – Wendy in Peter Pan, Ariel in The Little Mermaid – and she’s such a strong performer, but I really loved seeing her playing a character with a little more sass and deviousness. Her ever-changing wardrobe is great too.
As with all Go Theatre productions, there’s a large chorus filling the stage for the various ensemble numbers, playing the jocks, cheerleaders, brainiacs, skater dudes and thespians, the various cliques in the American high school system.
The energy and excitement on stage is wonderful to watch, with the entire cast looking like they are having such fun on the stage. Their obvious enjoyment creates a fantastic atmosphere. There was a little bit of rain towards the end of the show (the audience are under cover but the stage is out in the open) but it didn’t affect the performance at all.
Age guidance wise, I’d say it’s suitable for children aged around five and above. There’s nothing really age-inappropriate and the ‘baddies’ aren’t as scary as other Disney villains; it’s all good-hearted fun, catchy musical numbers and a strong underlying message. My children are eight, 10 and 12 and all loved it (as did their parents).
Disney High School Musical On Stage is at Cardiff Outdoor Theatre Festival until Saturday 30 July. Performances take place as follows: Sunday 24 July, 12pm and 2.30pm; Tuesday 26 -Friday 29 July, 12pm and 2.30pm; Saturday 30 July, 10.30am and 12.30pm
Tickets are on sale now, priced at £10 per person or £36 for a family ticket, which admits four.
For more information, see the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival website.