High School Musical is in the basket

IT made Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens superstars and now the young cast of The Grove’s High School Musical, which opens at the venue this week, are hoping the show will be a slam dunk to success.

The story is based - very loosely - on Romeo and Juliet and has been played out in Grease and West Side Story - but Disney updated the tale by setting it among the jocks and bookworms of an American high school.

HSM is a story about two high school juniors from rival cliques – Troy Bolton, captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella Montez, a beautiful and shy transfer student who excels in math and science.

Together, they try out for the lead parts in their high school musical, that’s been written by student Kelsi (uni student Katherine Lamport, 18, from Caddington) and as a result, divide the school. Despite other students’ attempts to thwart their dreams, Troy and Gabriella resist peer pressure and rivalry, inspiring others along the way.

The role of Gabriella has gone to Anna Pridgeon, 16, an Aylesbury High School student, from Wing, while Troy is played by Josh Perry, 18 from Dunstable. Alex Mustoe, 15, from Edlesborough plays Troy’s dad, coach Barton, in his third show for the venue, High School diva Sharpay is played by Abigail Parry, 17, a Luton Sixth Form College student from Stopsley; her sidekick is her grovelling brother Ryan (Josh Hawkins, 15, from Luton) and sycophant Taylor (Kerenza Killingbeck, 15 from Luton). Coach Barton’s nemesis, drama teacher, Mrs Darbus is played by Fiona Jane-Kettle, 17, a student at Queensbury Upper School, who lives in Dunstable.

The theatre’s summer musical project sees its youth section spend just 10 days rehearsing before staging performances this Thursday to Saturday.

Josh (Troy), who took up performing to boost his confidence, has appeared in Camp Rock and Oliver! at The Grove, said: “I don’t play basketball but I don’t really need to. There’s a lot of singing and dancing. At one point I’m trotting around while others shoot hoops!

”I got into this when my mum got me to audition for Camp Rock. I used to do a lot of singing at home but had no confidence at all. Once I got into rehearsals my confidence grew so much and it carried on from there. When I went on in my first show I went out there with no nerves. I thought I was going to be shaking and feeling sick but I really enjoyed it.

“This is a show for my generation. We all know it. I can’t believe I’ve got the lead considering it’s only my third show.”

Alex added: “We’re all really excited about this. It’s the most modern production we’ve done here so it’s more relevant to people our age who have all seen the film version.

“It’s quite difficult for me playing an older man but I think I’ve used something from my PE teachers at school!”

Anna, a former member of Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre has been performing since she was six. She first joined the summer project in 2010 when she got a small part in Guys and Dolls. “I came along for this audition and was so excited when I heard I had the part of Gabriella. I can’t wait. My friends and I are always watching the films.

“I found it a challenge because everyone has an idea about these stereotypes from the film. I wanted to get away from Vanessa Anne Hudgens to try and make the role my own,” said Anna, who is also in her school’s production of Cabaret.

“The summer musical is always popular. It gives talented young people a chance to showcase their talents. People appreciate that. We always put on good shows.”

“I came in playing Mrs Darbus more to the film version and then I was told to just let loose. Make her as mad as you can! I think I’ve borrowed a lot from my school drama teacher Susan Jones. I hope she doesn’t mind!” said Fiona.

High School Musical runs from Thursday to Saturday. For tickets call the box office 01582 602080 or go online www.grovetheatre.co.uk