At first glance, theater buffs may scoff at the Port Orchard Community Theater’s choice of show for the opening of its inaugural season this weekend. But once you dig in to the genesis and objective of the newest theater on the Kitsap circuit, it’s easy to see why the POCT board selected “High School Musical.”
The POCT folks have spent the entire summer preparing to offer live theater to the community, by the community — like many other community theaters — only its emphasis is set on involving, mentoring and emboldening youth within the realm of drama.
Disney’s pretty-boy, popular-girl musical trip through the society of teenage cliques has the aesthetic, emotions, dance numbers and pop-sugared music that defines the image of school halls today. Cell phones in class and all.
“It’s a great show, and it’s a show where kids can play their own age, which is really great,” director Laurie Hancock said during one of her recent commutes from Snoqualmie to Port Orchard. “There are so few shows out there with all youth performers.”
Hancock, a middle school choir teacher at Chief Kanim Middle School in Fall City by day, has made the two-plus-hour commute for rehearsals without many qualms because of the work of the 25-member cast which contains just two adults.
“It’s always refreshing as an adult to come to see kids doing something positive,” she said. “So much in the media, we portray kids who are messing up or failing, all the negative things, this is just so refreshing. I love being around these kids and seeing what they can do.”
Even if she weren’t obligated to the director’s chair, Hancock said this is a show she would drive to see based on the former premise.
“High School Musical” is a bit like a modern-day “Bye, Bye Birdy” or “Grease” with updated music, fashion and lingo. And even more so than the classics, it’s an incredibly wholesome or cheesy story, depending on how you look at it.
Following winter break, there’s a new girl in school at East High — Gabriella Montez (played by Summer Benke). Coincidentally during a winter break ski-trip Grabriella shared the karaoke stage with one of East High’s star basketball players — Troy Bolton (played by Spencer Sperber-Smith).
Seeing who he thinks he recognizes from winter break, Troy calls Gabriella’s cell phone in class, consequently earning them both detention where Ms. Darbus (Carissa Daniels) is teaching drama lessons in preparation for the school’s upcoming musical production.
Both Troy, a pigeonholed jock, and Gabriella, fast-earning the reputation of a brainiac, earn a callback for the show following an impromptu audition, but members of the respective cliques have other ideas.
Not too mention the prospective leads of the show — Sharpay Evans (Megan McCormick) and her twin brother Ryan (Ryan Posey).
“The kids totally have gotten the whole message of the show, which is that you can go outside the area people are used to seeing you in,” Hancock said. “For some of these kids, trying something new is doing this show.”
And it’s also something new to the county.
The Port Orchard Community Theater’s inaugural curtain call will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 21, running at that time Fridays and Saturdays with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays through Oct. 14 at the Givens Community Center gymnasium — 1026 Sidney Ave. in Port Orchard.
Tickets are $12 adults/$10 youth, seniors and military. Info: www.portorchardcommunitytheater.com or call (360) 769-6141.