Toon Talk: High School Musical:: The Concert
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by Kirby C. Holt
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE CONCERT
EXTREME ACCESS PASS
MPAA Rating: PG
Let's Put on a Show!
The program opens with a typical shot of a vast concert hall. Multi-colored lights eerily illuminate the pulsing throng of spectators while a steady beat slowly builds. As the music builds and the anticipation grows, one notes the lack of questionable smoke that usually drifts through such a scene. And hey, aren't those glow sticks instead of cigarette lighters? Do I see a stroller? What kind of concert film is this?
No doubt about it, this ain't no Gimme Shelter ...
Nope, this is High School Musical: The Concert, the latest in the seemingly never-ending mutations that the company has been able to conjure up to milk this particular cash cow for all its worth. Following the insanely popular Disney Channel TV movie, a multi-city tour featuring the film's freshly-scrubbed stars crossed the country to the adulation of tweens nationwide. Not to miss any opportunity for further brand extension, the live concert was filmed in Houston and is now available in an "Extreme Access Passâ€? DVD edition (in stores today).
Therein lies a bit of false advertising. For while the performance itself was indeed filmed live, with the Tiger Beat fan faves dancing and seemingly singing along to your favorite HSM songs and more, there is a certain degree of polish in the vocals that leads me to believe they are ... lip-syncing! This, in my opinion, negates the whole purpose of the venture. If the songs are pretty much the same as in the original movie and on the soundtrack, why not just watch the movie or listen to the CD?
Of course, this is all old fogy nit-picking as far as the target audience for this DVD is concerned. While I, who found the movie and its infectious songs a guilty pleasure, would have preferred the raw spontaneity of a completely live performance, the average HSM fan will certainly snap this up to complete their collection, either as a souvenir of when they themselves went to the concert or as a completely new experience.
The other misleading aspect of this so-called "Extreme Access Passâ€? is that said access is not all that extreme. Sure, we get some nifty behind-the-scenes features and your typical talking head testimonials from the cast (mostly of the "forever grateful for this opportunityâ€? type), but one only has to look at the running time to see something off. The concert itself ran ninety minutes (as is noted by the concert's flamboyant emcee Lucas Grabeel - in a series of whimsical hats befitting his character, Ryan), yet the DVD program is only about an hour. Missing from the program is at least a few numbers, including a dance from Monique Coleman (who played Taylor in the movie), who strutted her stuff quite well, thank you, on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, and a solo number (from The Cheetah Girls 2 soundtrack) by the concert's break-out star Drew Seeley (more on him later). Not only does this not give Monique a whole lot to do (she even looks lost on the DVD cover), but it short-changes the buyer. If I had gone to see the concert and bought this as a keepsake, I certainly would feel gypped by not getting the entire show ... unless there is the inevitable "Extreme Extreme Access Passâ€? edition somewhere down the line.
The concert itself is mostly recreations of all the movie's musical numbers in an onstage setting. No story-telling is attempted (or really needed, for most attendees certainly have seen the movie, like, a gazillion times) and the songs are performed out of sequence. The big numbers aren't allowed to stand on their own, marred by rapid-fire editing and distracting big screen graphics. The solos fare slightly better even if they are mostly back and forth shots between the singer pointing, waving and winking at the audience as the 90 % girls/10 % boys sing along.
Sprinkled throughout are solo numbers by three of the stars to (not too subtly) shill their new albums. Ashley Tisdale sheds her snooty Sharpay persona to belt a schmaltzy uplifting ballad, while Gabriella herself Vanessa Hudgens warbles a little Mariah Carey-like ditty. Corbin Bleu (Chad) actually gets two numbers to show off his Justin Timberlake moves: one from his other Disney Channel movie Jump In! (complete with rope-jumping), and another where he dons a Michael Jackson-esque band-leader costume and bangs on a cowbell to get the crowd going. Alas, these numbers only seem to confuse the younger audience members, unfamiliar they are with the finer points of corporate synergy.