Returning to the days of country club summer jobs, table-top dancing and melodramatic teenage angst – the resident theater at Hinsdale’s Community House stage July 29 High School Musical 2: On Traineeship.
The sequel to Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise is “the best,” said Don Smith, artistic director of the Stage Door Fine Arts theater company. When he first pitched the idea for their summer production, he got a lot of “OK, but we didn’t do the first one?”
“Whatever – you don’t have to know the first movie to enjoy the second – it’s fun, the setting is summer, which couldn’t be more perfect for a summer show,” said Smith. “I don’t think enough people know that High School Music 2 is a real stage show that you can produce. We might even be the Chicago area premiere of this musical, which is kind of fun.
High School Musical 2: On Stage was released in 2008, just a year after the made-for-TV musical debuted to a growing audience clamoring for the songs and characters for years to come.
Nathan Frewen, who will play hoop star Troy Bolton, said the Stage Door production will be his last with the theater troupe.
“It’s a lifetime commitment and I love it…it’s a bit of a headache,” Frewen said.
Frewen, 18, has been performing at Stage Door since she was 9 years old with 23 productions under her belt.
“My first production was also a summer show, so it’s definitely a loop moment, and the person choreographing that show was in that show with me 9 years ago…a lot of full circle moments happen. produce,” Frewen said. “It’s where I grew up and learned to play. I went from a 9-year-old boy who didn’t know how to act to someone who got into a major performing arts school.
Frewen, a graduate of Downers Grove South, will attend Audubon University in Ohio this fall.
Opposite Frewen in Stage Door’s production of High School Musical 2, Libby Larson will play straight student and Troy’s love interest Gabriella Montez.
The 18-year-old Hinsdale Central graduate grew up a two-minute drive from the Community House and has been involved with Stage Door since 4th grade. The summer piece will be his 16th performance, and his last.
“Don and Paula were my support system, they helped me grow into who I am as a person and an actor. Honestly, it’s sad to be leaving, but I know I have to – move on, follow my own way,” Larson said with a laugh.
“Gotta Go My Own Way” is, of course, Gabriella’s big ballad in High School Musical 2, and one of the few songs that is a solo performance.
“The song is weirdly emotional,” Larson said, explaining that in the scene, Gabriella is mad at Troy and decides to leave the country club where their group of friends (and enemies) are working for the summer.
The musical numbers, while challenging, are what made Smith consider the show in the first place — “every song in the second movie and that stage show is a bop, as the kids say.”
The tech team will use a high-tech video projection system to quickly cycle through the many scenes that take place in various locations like the school, country club, pool and dessert, Smith said.
This season slot at Stage Door is the cast group of all ages, from sophomores to recent high school graduates. Smith said “older kids love it” having grown up with the series and Disney+ spinoffs.
The shows will be additional, but certainly self-aware, said Smith, who added that they couldn’t stray too far from the script for legal reasons, but pushed the actors to embrace the feel of the early 2000s “when things were on top.”
“It’s still High School Musical, it’s not a masterpiece – I mean, it is, but it’s not winning the Pulitzer,” Smith cheekily said. “So we tell the kids to really bring out the cheese in the show.”
The all-ages set hails from several different towns, including La Grange, Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Bartlett and more.
“Having the opportunity to create our version of this smash hit, with young adults, in a quality Broadway production is what Stage Door Fine Arts is all about,” said Co-Artistic Director, Paula Taylor. .
Between Larson’s solo and Frewen’s big “Bet on It” moment, there’s a lot to do to do new-classic justice. But it’s who you do it with that matters most, Larson added.
“There are nerves, but I’m excited to do it with everyone I love, including Nathan – he’s been on all the shows I’ve probably been on, so it’s cool to end up together as than Troy and Gabriela,” she said.
Tickets for High School Musical 2 are $25. Performances will be July 29 and 30 at 7 p.m., July 30 and 31 at 2 p.m. at The Community House in Hinsdale, 415 W. 8th Street. For tickets, visit StageDoorFineArts.com