Disney’s High School Musical | Ken Longworth

THE GROUPS: The Brainiacs, the Jocks, and the Thespians in Disney’s High School Musical. Photo: Bree Zink
THE GROUPS: The Brainiacs, the Jocks, and the Thespians in Disney’s High School Musical. Photo: Bree Zink

TONI Zink, the artistic director and owner of Bling Performing Arts, made an appropriate choice when she decided to stage Disney’s High School Musical as the first large-scale production presented by the Newcastle performing arts training company, which has many school students in its singing, dancing and acting classes.

The musical, which will be staged at Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre in Warners Bay on June 14 and 15, looks amusingly at the relationships between four groups of students in a high school when a teacher decides to stage a musical that has been written by one of the senior students. It is called Juliet and Romeo and is a version of the classic story that has been given a happy ending.

The groups are very different in nature. The Brainiacs focus on their school studies, the Thespians are keen about acting and singing, the Jocks are sport-mad basketball players, and the Skater Dudes move around the schoolyard on skateboards in class breaks.

The captain of the basketball team and leader of the Jocks, Troy Bolton, met and romanced an attractive girl while on an interstate holiday with his parents. And he is surprised on the first day back at school to find that the girl, Gabriella Montez, has moved with her family to his home town. Gabriella is very different in nature, focusing on her school work and becoming part of the Brainiacs.

But circumstances lead to Gabriella auditioning for the play, and Troy, keen to be close to her, also auditions, with their respective groups trying to force them to focus on their established skills. Thespian twins, Sharpay and Ryan, who are used to getting leading roles, attempt to get Gabriella and Troy out of the limelight.

With most of the characters being students and many of them having to learn the varied skills needed for the musical, it gives the 23 cast members, who are mainly aged from eight to the high teens, a chance to use the skills they have gained at the Bling Performing Arts studio in Broadmeadow.

Toni Zink, who learnt tap-dancing from age three from the renowned Les Griffiths, established Bling 10 years ago. She noted that many of Bling’s young students are shy, and that playing their High School Musical roles is helping them to lose their shyness.

That has certainly been the case with Katie Collins, 17, and Logan Biles, 14, who are playing twins Sharpay and Ryan.

Katie, who saw the film version of High School Musical long before Toni Zink decided to stage the play adapted from it, said Sharpay had always been her favourite character. “Like her, I love the spotlight,” she noted. Logan also sees Ryan, the brother that Sharpay keeps telling has to obey her orders because she was born seven minutes before him and knows more about life, as being a lot like himself. “His reactions to most of the things that happen to him are very funny,” he said.

High School Musical is being directed and choreographed by Jody Hooker, a dance and singing teacher who moved from Sydney to Newcastle 18 months ago. She performed for seven years in professional shows staged by Parramatta’s Packemin Productions, and directed an acclaimed production of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  for another Sydney company in 2016.

The Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre shows are on Thursday and Friday, June 14 and 15, at 6.30pm. Tickets: $20, concession $15, child to age 12 $12. Bookings: trybooking.com

NERDY SCIENCE RETURN

THE Clark Gormley hit, Clark's Nerdy Science Show, which virtually sold out all its 2018 Newcastle Fringe performances and won the festival’s award for Best Newcastle Production, will have one more gig at the CBD’s Royal Exchange on Sunday, May 27, at 6pm. Gormley again shows his talents for making a serious subject engaging in a 60-minute performance, looking amusingly and engrossingly at the lives and work of people involved in science research through the ages. He uses background images of paintings and photographs to show the scientists, includes a laugh-raising video of “the world’s first eco space trek”, and sings a love song called Test Tube Baby. Tickets, adults $15, concession and children $10. Contact the Royal Exchange, 4929 4969.

MUSIC CELEBRATION

MAITLAND Musical Society is staging A Celebration of Music at two different venues on Saturday, June 16, and Sunday, June 17. The musical society’s orchestra will present favourite songs and themes from musical theatre, blockbuster movies and traditional Scottish music. The Saturday performance will be at Maitland Masonic Hall, with audience members asked to arrive by 1.30pm, with the music starting at 2pm. Tickets, $25, include a high tea. People are asked to book by June 13 for catering purposes. The Sunday show is at Largs School of Arts Hall at 2pm. Tickets, $12, can be booked or bought at the door.  Book for both shows through maitlandmusicals.org.