Poteet Theatre gets back to class with 'High School Musical,' a production that showcases young, local performers 

align="right" border="0" height="137" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="200" />High School Musical
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 8
Poteet Theatre
St. Luke's United Methodist Church
222 N.W. 15th

With a plot lifted from "Romeo and Juliet," minus the tragedy, "High School Musical," based on the stage version of the hugely popular 2006 Disney telefilm, tells the story of star-crossed lovers from rival cliques: basketball team captain Troy Bolton and transfer student/math-and-science whiz Gabriella Montez.

Chaos ensues when both defy stereotypes by trying out for the lead roles in the school musical, much to the chagrin of literal drama queen Sharpay Evans, who does her best to sabotage their efforts. By subverting expectations, Troy and Gabriella set an example that inspires others.

Along with "Glee," the "High School Musical" franchise has turned a whole new generation on to musical theater "? a fact that Poteet's director, Jay Prock, wants to take advantage of.

"We want to develop theater patrons in young people and young families, helping to create the next generation of theatergoers," he said.

The musical also presented an opportunity to highlight the talent of young, local performers, Prock said, including Classen High School senior Keri Fuller and University of Oklahoma sophomore John Frasier in the leads.

"This is an incredibly talented cast," Prock said. "The kids have rehearsed for six weeks, up to eight hours at a time."

The role of drama teacher Ms. Darbus is carried by New York actress Cyndi Steele-Harrod, former head of Lyric Academy. Christine Harris will take over the role for the show's final two weeks.

Sharpay Evans is played by Taylor Newby, one of Steele-Harrod's former Lyric students, now a sophomore musical-theater major at New York University. Prock said she and Steele-Harrod have similar personalities and an "incredible comedic chemistry onstage."

While all of the songs and much of the dialogue from the film are included in the stage version, some differences exist. Prock said the live production elevates the energy and excitement, and the characters cease to be caricatures, becoming believable kids with real issues and emotions.

"The writers set up the live version with more heart than the movie and added more depth to the main characters, making it easier for more people, adults included, to identify with them," he said.

In addition, the stage show features new music and dance numbers not seen in the film. Despite its broad popular appeal, Prock said that the show carries a strong message.

"It encourages people of all ages to accept who you are and be OK with going against the status quo. It addresses standing up for what you believe and for what is right," he said. "?Eric Webb

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