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High School Musical 2 

Wholesomeness gets a vigorous workout

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High School Musical 2
N.C. Theatre @ Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Through June 21

Wholesomeness gets a vigorous workout in North Carolina Theatre's High School Musical 2. Those who love the Disney TV movies won't be disappointed: From the explosive opening number filled with flashy lighting design and set changes, and impressive dance steps, the show's cast of Broadway and local performers give the audience just what it came to see.

Throughout the production, the cast has so much fun dancing and singing its way through the first days of summer that you'll (almost) wish you were 17 again. At the very least, you'll spend the next several days singing damn catchy songs about idyllic 17-year-old lives, whether you like it or not.

The plot's heartthrob at the center of the action is Troy Bolton, here played by an appropriately clueless but adorable Chase Peacock, who holds his own against the formidable standard set by Zac Efron in the movie versions. When tyrannical vixen Sharpay (played by a standout Gretchen Bieber) lands Troy a job at her dad's country club, the persuasive Troy gets jobs for all his best friends as well, including his sweetheart, Gabriella (played by Renée Albulario, who looked the part but gave a less dynamic performance than the other leads). Thus begins a tumultuous first week of summer, in which hearts are broken, friendships tested and new bonds formed—all within a splashy and wholesome Disney milieu.

The show benefits from the energetic direction of Casey Hushion, the N.C. Theatre artistic director, and excellent technical work from designers Craig Stelzenmuller and Sarah Marshall and choreographer Bobby Pestka, along with stellar performances by Jason Edward Cook as the flamboyantly talented dancer Ryan and Krystal Joy Brown as the fashionable and assured Taylor. The show both begins and ends with a party—the final one spilling from the stage into the audience, complete with beach balls and whooping performers. Maybe not everyone's high school experience was this full of fun, fun, fun, but High School Musical 2 makes us believe it could have been that way.

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