O’Donel High has become known as a hot-spot for artistic talent. Their theatre troupe have put off a slew of highly regarded productions from talented students, including the likes of Grease, Little Shop of Horrors, Fame, The Wizard of Oz, Aida and most recently The Sound of Music. Now, the often demanded production students and fans have craved will be coming to the stage, as O’Donel is set to launch their high-energy adaptation of Disney’s High School Musical.
“This show was one that the students have been asking us to do for our musical production for a few years now,” shared English Department head and stage director Patty Rose. “It is a popular movie and the students were thrilled when the rights became available and when Sean Carroll (Musial Director) and I decided that it was a good fit for our school. Like in Disney’s version of the show, there are definite student groups at O’Donel, but they are not, perhaps, as clearly defined as in the show. It was interesting to see that the students auditioning for the musical auditioned with their friends and for the first few rehearsals they kept to their friend groups.
“However it has been nice to see how the students in the cast have come together as one group through this process, really proving the premise of the musical, which is that ‘We Are All in This Together.’”
School’s social system
According to the O’Donel brass, the play is adapted from the highly popular Disney franchise and centers on students at East High School who go about their school year happily in their various cliques (the Brainiacs, The Skateboarders, The Thespians, The Jocks and The Cheerleaders) until Troy, a Jock, meets Gabriella, a Brainiac, during Christmas break when they are forced to sing karaoke together at a New Year’s Eve bash. When Gabriella arrives at East High after Christmas break, Troy is forced to step out of his jock persona as he and Gabriella audition for the school musical Juliet and Romeo, sending his life into a tailspin, and threatening the balance of the school’s social system.
The long-standing desire to tackle the highly popular television and film franchise made the decision to move-forward with this project easier than normal, as O’Donel’s selection process on which play to take on is extensive.
“It is not easy to pick the musical that we will take on as a school, but choice is partly based on doing a show that is family friendly and which has not been done in St. John’s in the last several years,” Rose shared.
“This sometimes limits us as a show that we might have a great interest in doing has just been done or is being done in the same year by another school or by a Professional Acting Company. However, we have always been really excited with the choices that we have made for our productions, and this year is no exception,” she added. “Once we pick the show, myself, Sean Carroll (Musical Director) and Katy Noftall (choreographer) work both independently and together as a cohesive directing team.”
Rose was nothing but complementary on her eager and adventurous cast, who help bring to life the characters viewers have come to know and love. The leads themselves reciprocated the enthusiasm, as they weighed in on
“I wanted to do this show at O’Donel since I was in level 1 and I am really excited about doing it now and being part of this great experience,” shared Jaime Doyle, who is cast in the leading role of Gabriella.
Kurtis Butt, who plays Troy said that “Andrew (Hepditch) and I used to watch it every day after school when we were in grade 5.”
Hepditch, who was cast in the role of Ryan added that “It is so popular that you really want to do it justice, but there is some pressure to be just like the characters in the movie because everyone knows the show.”
Hepditch described the character of Ryan as “the alpha dog of the school, who takes a backseat to his twin while trying to figure out how to be his own person, while Butt, a theatre newcomer, described his character as “a classic jock of the school who is under a lot of pressure from his father to be the basketball star, but who really wants to follow his newly discovered passion for singing.
Jaime (Gabriella), also a relative newcomer to the stage, talked of her character as being “a very shy student, new to the school, who, at first, just wants to fit in, but comes to realize that she can be herself and still be accepted for who she is.”
‘Family friendly show’
Rose shared that O’Donel’s latest production is one that invites the entire family, a fitting night out to combat some of those late winer blues.
“This is definitely a family friendly show,” she shared. “Spectators can expect a very high energy, light-hearted, but somewhat realistic look at student life in high school. It leaves the audience feeling good as it ends with the optimistic theme of all students realizing that differences don’t matter and that “We’re all in this Together”.