‘Disney’s High School Musical’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse

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Disney’s High School the Musical, at Laurel Mill Playhouse, is directed by TJ Lukacsina, and is produced by Maureen Rogers and Laila Riaz.

This is the 12th year that LMP has given youth, this time from 3 counties, a chance to perform in a live musical production.

Not only does this popular musical take you back to your high school years, but if you are over the age of 20, it will remind you of many of the plots Walt Disney used in the mini-series he had on the old Mickey Mouse Club.  If you are in your thirties, it is reminiscent of the show from the 80’s and 90’s Saved by the Bell.

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The plot is Disney-esque: Boy meets girls. The school meanie tries to cause trouble. Dad doesn’t understand. The good kids win out in the end.  Love conquers all. Dad has an awakening. Even the strict teacher relaxes in the end and joins the spirit.

The musical is aimed at adolescents who still have dreams and think good always conquers evil. Friends are always true and romantic love is this perfect dream. However, like a lot of Disney, it works. The exuberance of the young actors, the pleasant musical score and, in this case, good direction helps create a very pleasant evening for adults and a really fun evening for kids.

Much of the credit goes to Director TJ Lukacsina, the musical direction of Billy George, and the simple but flowing choreography of Malarie Novotny.

Although many of the cast are way too young to be in high school, they kids want to succeed, and they do. Who would not think an adorable 7 or 8 year old is just fine playing a high school cheerleader?

Jordan Essex, who is a student at St. Vincent Pallotti High School, is quite believable as Troy, the jock turned musical actor and the romantic male lead. His female counterpart who plays a brainiac turned musical actress is Danielle Kellner, a sophomore at Arundel High School, and she is also up to her role. They both have a sweet chemistry that first loves often exhibit.

Jessica Harzer has a long list of musical experience for her age.  She evilly plays Sharpay – the student everyone hates – but still is versatile enough to let us understand why she is so mean. Her counterpart is Dave Martinek. He plays the unwilling manipulated Ryan Evans catching the character’s awkwardness without being awkward on stage.

Playing grown-ups and making them seem real, especially when these are caricatures, is a tough thing for a young actor. However, Nia Rowe as the inflexible teacher, Ms. Darbus, and Mike McCloud, as the coach and father to Troy, are outstanding. Rowe has a real stage presence whenever she appears.

Other supporting cast member also show lots of potential talent and have lots of charm on stage. Nathaniel Thompson and Jaden Burnett play the sidekicks Chad and Taylor.

De’ja Crenshaw plays the school creative genius Kelsi Nielsen. Cassandra Ferrrell adds humor with her role as the school P.A. announcer, Jaxie Scott. Although this group is still attending school, they are part of the more-seasoned veterans.

The rest of the ensemble is for the most part much younger. Again, what they lack in experience they make up in enthusiasm and cuteness. There are three standouts in this group, Maxwell Coward, Carly Pometto, and Neriya Cook. However, the rest of the cast also does a wonderful job and includes Jordan Hollis, Sienna Johnson, Delaney McGinness, Yasmine Noland, Samantha Roberts, Yvonna Smack, Kayla Sterling, Syndi Thomas, Chris Weber, and Allison Wickline.

The set and lights are designed by Lukascina, and he did a great job creating the feeling of a high school from gym to classroom. Moveable pieces and lighting take us from the gym to the theater to locker room.  Some of the action, due to the large cast, takes place in the audience. The staging for that went flawlessly, and a cheer for the kids for their poise handling sitting and standing right next to their audience without dropping character.

Lynn Kellner, along with cast and their families, is responsible for the attractive and colorful costumes.

So, on this 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future take a ride on your own DeLorean to go back to your high school days and go see Disney’s High School Musical at Laurel Mill Playhouse. And don’t forget to bring the kids.

Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, with an intermission.

Disney’s High School the Musical plays through Sunday, August 23 at 2015 at Laurel Mill Playhouse— 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.

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