'High School Musical': From the Disney Channel straight to Austin High

Disney's made-for-cable phenomenon High School Musical is jumping from the small screen to the stage, and Austin High is one of seven schools chosen to premiere the official stage adaptation

Life imitates art: Austin High students rehearse the musical about high school students rehearsing a musical.
Life imitates art: Austin High students rehearse the musical about high school students rehearsing a musical. (Photo By Bret Brookshire)

Hard to believe that it's been only nine months since the Mouse Factory unleashed on the world that innocuous little made-for-cable movie about kids putting on a show. Disney's High School Musical (and that purposefully generic title tells you pretty much everything you need to know going in) landed with such a colossal pop-culture splash – record-breaking ratings on three continents, more than a dozen reruns, a soundtrack that went triple platinum and spawned one platinum single and five that went gold, 2.3 million DVD sales in the first three months of release, a pair of Emmy Awards – that it feels like it's been around for ages. Now, with the Little Musical That Could having conquered the world by air and by CD, Mickey's army is launching a new assault by, what else, stage. Last week, Disney announced High School Musical: The Concert, starring five cast members of the movie, to tour 40 cities Nov. 30 through Jan. 28. But on top of that, Disney Theatrical Productions and licensing powerhouse Music Theatre International are ready to tap the world's most natural market for a show called High School Musical: high schools! They've selected seven schools across the country to premiere the official amateur stage adaptation, and among the chosen few is Austin High, which opens its Red Dragon Players production this week.

Just why the school made the short list for this particular honor isn't clear. But when the Red Dragon Players went to Lincoln, Neb., this summer to present Steve Tesich's The Speed of Darkness at the International Thespian Festival – Austin High was one of just 10 schools in the U.S. and Canada chosen to perform at that event – representatives from both MTI and Disney Theatrical were among the 4,000 people who saw their show, and Austin High drama instructor Billy Dragoo feels that "the quality of the show impressed those who make these decisions."

The stage adaptation is still very much a work in progress. Although it's his wife Annie who's directing High School Musical for the Red Dragon Players, Billy Dragoo knows that revisions to the script and piano/vocal score have been coming in since the school started rehearsals and that MTI has asked for feedback about the book, libretto, and score after the production with the idea of making further changes to the show before its general release to all schools in January. Once that happens, expect to see the show in every cafetorium from sea to shining sea; Disney Theatrical anticipates 2,000 schools will produce High School Musical by the end of 2007.


Disney's High School Musical runs Nov. 2-12, Thursday-Saturday, 7pm, Saturday and Sunday, 2pm, at Austin High, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez. For ticket reservations, call 414-7311, or e-mail tickets@reddragonplayers.com.

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