Saturday, July 16, 2011

Genesius' 'High School Musical' gets straight As for family entertainment

The cast pictured, from left to right: Elizabeth Cooper, Riley Pearson, Emily Snyder, Quinn Corcoran

Photo credit: Shannan Denlinger
By Cheryl Thornburg
  If you could bottle the energy and enthusiasm in Genesius Theatre's current production, the world would be  better place.
  "High School Musical," based on the popular  Disney movie, is very familiar to the teen and preteen set, a well as their parents and grandparents. But for those of you who aren't, it is set in a typical American high school peopled with jocks, cheerleaders, brainiacs and other cliques.  Even if you went to high school 40 years ago, some things haven't changed.
  The cast is primarily high school and middle school students, with a few college students and a couple of grown-ups for good measure.
  At the heart of the story is an unlikely love match between the school's basketball star, Troy, played by Riley Pearson and a newcomer science and math geek, Gabriella, played by Emily Snyder. The two had met while  singing karaoke on vacation and reconnect in school.     
  These two shine in their duets, "I can't take my eyes off of you" and "When There Was Me and You." Snyder's emotion was palpable in the latter ballad, showcasing her acting as well as her vocal talent. Pearson, who will be a junior at Governor Mifflin this year, delivers the perfect balance  between being macho when with his teammates and  sensitive when he's with Gabriella.
  There are some other great duos in this show -- the conniving  sister, Sharpay,  and her brother, Ryan, who have ruled the drama club forever -- are played by Elizabeth Cooper and Quinn Corcoran. Cooper, a sophomore at Shippensburg University,  brings strong vocals and comedic talent as Sharpay, the diva of the school. Corcoran is delightful as her flamboyant brother.  He manages to combine vocals, dance and comedy with ease.
  Fearful of losing their star status, these two team up to prevent Troy and Gabriella from auditioning for the school musical, adding the "drama" and plot  to this musical comedy.
The kids don't get to have all the fun in this show, though.  Katie Mohn is hilarious as the over-the-top drama teacher (she reminds me of one of my high school English teachers at Reading High).  Offsetting her dramatic flair is the understated, but equally funny, performance by Patrick Malarkey as Coach Bolton, who happens to be Troy's father.
  Other performances of note are:
  Spencer Barbera demonstrates that's he's a budding comedian as Jack Scott who periodically delivers school radio announcements that tie the show together.
  Morgan Konopelski  a student in the Exeter schools, proves she can sing as well as make people laugh as Taylor, Gabriella's best friend.
  Another musically gifted cast member is Sarah Kerwin, a student at Owen J. Roberts High School, who plays Kelsi Nelson who writes the school musical "Juliet and Romeo," that sets up the competition for leading roles.
  Adding his own charming comedic take on  Zeke, the basketball player with a secret passion for baking, is John Pietrobono.
  Reading High School's Rubiel Vargas plays Troy's best friend Chad.  He, along with Morgan Konopelski and Sarah Kerwin,  gets the crowd going in the second act with the rousing song, "We're All in This Together."
  Rounding out the talented cast are Evan Malarkey (Jason), Grayson Ziegler (James), Brianna Janoczkin (Susan), Becca Snyder (Cathy), Nick Schmoyer (Alan), Cecilia Cooper (Cyndra), Manouchka Paulemont, Morgan Keener, Sophie Giallareto (Trio), Jennifer Smilth (Martha), Jenna Lemelin (Kratnoff), Jessie Hoffman (Ripper), Nicholas Pietrobono (Mongo), and Jewell Brown (Ms. Tenney/Moderator). In the ensemble are: Vrushabh Doshi, Jessie Havercamp, Jake Hoffman, Luke Ott, Trey Petrarca, Kaitlyn Reber, Sarajean Reinert, Hanna Schultz, and Kira Voit.
  Director Kelly Snyder has rounded up more than 30 talented students from 11 area schools, and like the characters in the show, she has helped them realize their dreams of being on stage. Choreography, a challenge in this small space, is by Erin Stevens, and musical direction by Kevin Cooper. The result is lively upbeat family entertainment.
  Remaining performances are July 16, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m., July 17 and 24 at 3 p.m,, and July 20 and 21 at 7 p.m.
  Tickets for performances are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students with ID. Please note: Curtain for the Wednesday, July 20th and Thursday, July  21st performances is 7 p,m. All seats for the Wednesday, July 20th and Thursday, July  21st performances are $15.
  Genesius Theatre is located  at 10th & Walnut streets, Reading. There is free parking adjacent to the theater, just off 10th Street,  The theater  is handicap accessible. 
For tickets and more information visit the Genesius Website at or call the Genesius Reservation Hot-Line at 610-373-9500. 


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