LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Veteran musical theater actor and director Patrick Ciamacco was too old to get caught up in the “High School Musical” mania that swept away Disney Channel viewers more than a decade and a half ago.
While Ciamacco has appeared on Beck Center shows for years, he’s recently helmed a few teen and youth shows. So maybe it was only a matter of time before “High School Musical” made an appearance in his life.
That’s exactly the case now, as he directs Disney’s Beck Center for the Arts Youth Theater production of “High School Musical,” which runs March 18-27 at the Senney Theater, 17801 Detroit Ave.
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“I was expecting something a little cheesy, but it’s really fun and lighthearted,” Ciamacco said. “It has good depth in terms of the themes of being who you want to be, trying not to conform to what everyone else thinks you should be and just chasing your own dreams. It was really a interesting thing that I did not expect.
Among the many surprises Ciamacco experienced with “High School Musical” is the fact that the show is anything but easy for its 28 cast members, ages 12 to 17.
“What surprised me the most was his difficult music, which is marketed to young actors,” Ciamacco said. “There’s a lot more harmonies than we expected, there’s a lot more complex music in there and it’s a lot to learn for a cast.
“Also, there’s a lot of dancing, so it’s really a challenge for them. They’re gaining stamina now that we’re running the show.
The fun part about making “High School Musical,” which debuted in 2007, is the fact that the East High School Wildcat franchise includes so many sequel movies, spinoffs, and stage adaptations. Adding to the fun (and confusion) is Disney Channel’s current “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”
“While I only watched the first movie to familiarize myself with the show and the storyline, the kids saw all versions of ‘High School Musical,'” Ciamacco said. “So when we normally discuss the characters on our show, they’re like, ‘Well, in the third movie, that’s what happened to this character.
“I had to tell them it was interesting to know, but let’s try to focus on this show because none of that has happened yet.”
The director said he was able to get the kids on board with the idea of creating their own unique take on “High School Musical,” which features timeless musical theater themes.
“During this pandemic maybe some people are wondering what they really want to do, what are our next steps, am I really happy with what I’m doing?” Ciamacco said. “That’s kind of what a lot of these characters also decide throughout the show.
“What if I want to be something else? I think these kids are now making the same decisions in their real lives. This show has a nice little message that says it’s OK to make changes.
So not only are the kids “Breaking Free” with “High School Musical,” but it turns out the property is exactly what the director was looking for.
“It’s something we need right now, something a little more fun coming out of the pandemic,” Ciamacco said.
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