Disney Does High School

Two years ago this July, a fire all but destroyed the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. This summer the box office is on fire with the arrival of “High School Musical” — the New England premiere of the Disney Channel juggernaut. First of all let me say I’m thrilled for the folks at NSMT — “High School Musical” is going to do wonders for the bottom line. I’m also pumped for the teen cast members who are getting an unforgettable opportunity with a professional company. If only the show wasn’t the musical equivalent of a Skittles and Mountain Dew dinner!

Yeah, yeah I’m a crank. I should be stoked that tweens, teens and their parents are flocking to a live theatre event. It’s all good, clean fun right? Sure. Just like Foxwoods is an “entertainment resort” for dining,dancing and golf. “High School Musical” serves up cliché and stereotypes like oversized turkey legs at a ren-faire. There’s no challenge here, it’s recycled teen schlock that’s been around since “Bye Bye Birdie.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch or sing along to, it just means it doesn’t have any lasting value. It’s a 4th of July sparkler, bright and brilliant one second — an ashen pile the next.

So, am I saying, “don’t take the kids to High School Musical?” Absolutely not — take ’em, then head out to “The Olive Garden” for some genuine Italian cuisine afterward! (sorry, cheap shot there). No, seriously go — but make sure you put some more challenging material on the plate in the future.

If you have older teens, take them to see “Spring Awakening” when it comes to Boston. The new production of “Sweeney Todd” will be at the Colonial Theatre in October — that’s an amazing show. Heck, “Wicked” will be back at the Opera House in September, and that show ain’t half bad either.

Let “High School Musical” be the spark for some real artistic fire.

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