In between the chirpy trills and jazz squares on display at the DCU Center Wednesday night, the distinct cha-ching of the cash register could be heard as (most of) the cast of the Disney Channel's unstoppable hit "High School Musical" came to sing the songs from the relentlessly upbeat cable film (mostly) live onstage.
For tweens anxious about negotiating the ferocious cliquishness of secondary school, "High School Musical" is the ultimate in wish fulfillment. Here, says Disney, is a place where the star jock is dying to be in the school play, the geeks gladly cheer on the team at the big game, and the mathlete snags the school heartthrob as everyone eventually learns that "We're All in This Together."
Of course, Disney's always been in the wish fulfillment business, and as "HSM" proves -- the soundtrack was the best-selling album of the year -- business is good. Glowsticks, programs, T-shirts, everything but "HSM" acne medication were for sale at the busy concession stands.
But there are certainly far worse ways for kids to spend a night out and their parents' money.
The hard-working and gracious cast, eight-person dance troupe, and six-man band did their darnedest to keep the dream alive by giving the sold-out house of enraptured kids -- and more than a few enraptured adults -- a spit-polished 90 minutes of teen-pop-infused showtunes, first-rate choreography, and enough pageant-worthy grins to fill a tooth whitener infomercial.
All of the show's songs were performed, from the zippy "Bop to the Top" to the treacly ballad "When There Was Me and You," by the actors who sang them in the film, with one major exception.
Star Zac Efron , sensitive b-baller Troy Bolton, is shooting "Hairspray," so Drew Seely , who worked behind the scenes on "HSM" as a composer and vocalist, filled his hightops. Seely ably covered Efron's vocal contributions and likely scooped up some new fans with a clean-cut, early-boy-band-years look (before the ill-advised facial hair and defiant attitudes start to sprout).
Three of the stars -- Ashley Tisdale , Vanessa Hudgens , and Corbin Bleu -- got spotlight moments to flog their own solo albums. Tisdale and Bleu moved well and had flair to spare, but only the giggly Hudgens displayed much real vocal ability, relying the least on prerecorded backing tracks.
The choreography was the most impressive aspect of the show, from the locker room antics of "Getcha Head in the Game" to the incorporation of a ballroom routine to highlight Monique Coleman's recent stint on "Dancing With the Stars."
Parents and older siblings be forewarned, it's not over. "High School Musical 2" comes to the Disney Channel this summer.
Opener Jordan Pruitt braved the blank stares of the crowd to do four wholly innocuous numbers about being a typical teenager that could easily have been outtakes from "HSM."