'High School Musical' comes to Washington Terrace stage

Saturday , July 26, 2014 - 4:12 PM

By AMY NICHOLSON
Standard-Examiner coorespondent

Weber High School drama teacher Mark Daniels is all about providing educational opportunities to youth whenever and however he can.

“I chose this show because I wanted to do something with a lot of kids during the summer,” said Daniels, who is directing “High School Musical” in a Terrace Plaza Playhouse production.

“I really encourage kids to be involved first and foremost in their high school theater programs, but I also want them to get a taste of community theater. This gives them a chance to commit to their high school programs and do a community show in the summer.”

The spunky Disney Channel Original Movie, “High School Musical,” became an instant success in 2006. It may have been especially popular with local youth since parts were filmed in Utah.

The musical was quickly adapted for the stage. The majority of the characters are high school students. More than 100 hopefuls showed up for auditions, and Daniels decided to double cast the roles, creating two groups of 35 actors each.

“The kids are from area high schools all over – Weber, Layton, Fremont, Syracuse, Box Elder and Bonneville,” he said.

This is Daniels’ fifth time directing at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse. He has directed at other community theaters including Hale Centre Theatre. He graduated from Weber State University in communications and theater arts teaching in 1996, and completed his masters in theater production with Central Washington University in 2013.

To create more of an educational opportunity for the summer production, Daniels recruited two professionals to conduct workshops.

Jim Christian, WSU’s director of musical theater studies, did a workshop focused on character development. Jerry Hatch, who choreographs for Lagoon Amusement Park and other companies across the nation, drove up from Salt Lake City to coach on finding characterization in choreography.

“I wanted it to be an extension of their theater education,” Daniels said. “The kids have really eaten it up. It will look good on a resume and it is a good educational experience. Giving them these professional workshops is a part of the way we thank them for being in the show.”

As for the show itself, Daniels praised it as having a lot of heart.

Lead Troy Bolton, played by Jared Olsen and Matt Taylor, both of Ogden, is the captain of the basketball team and the leader of the jocks at East High School.

Troy falls for new girl Gabriella, played by Olivia Lusk and Hannah Porter, also Ogden residents.

Gabriella makes friends with the clique of brainy kids. One day during tryouts for the winter musical, Troy and Gabriella are overheard singing, and their voices are so beautiful they are invited to try out for the leads.

This throws a lot of students for a loop, including the girl who is use to getting the lead in every show.

“Troy is a jock who wants to sing and Gabriella is a brainiac who finds her passion in acting,” Daniels said. “They cross boundaries and it sends everyone off in their own directions finding out who they are.”

The couple’s insistence to not be boxed into one category or another has a ripple effect of opening doors for fellow classmates to discover who they are. One jock finds that he loves to cook, a skater uncovers his joy in playing the cello and a brainy student discovers her talent for hip-hop.

Even the drama student who feels jilted out of her place as leading lady learns that it can be fun to play a supporting character. And she finds love. There are happy endings all around.

WSU 2014 musical theater graduate Bailee DeYoung choreographed the show.

“This is her first time here at the Terrace,” Daniels said. “She has been fantastic. I think this musical has a standard that people expect, like ‘Get’cha Head in the Game’ uses basketballs. She has really created some clever choreography to fit in our space.”

Audiences can expect an evening of high energy dancing and fun dialogue.

“We really want this to be a show for families,” Daniels said. “And, there is a message. All of these kids are trying to find out who they are and to find their place in the world. They are looking to be respected and accepted. Finding your place doesn’t mean you have to be defined by one clique.”

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: ‘High School Musical’
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, Aug. 8-Sept. 20
  • WHERE: Terrace Plaza Playhouse, 99 E. 4700 South, Washington Terrace
  • TICKETS: $10-$12/adult, $7-$9/child; http://terraceplayhouse.com/bev/tickets or 801-393-0070
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