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High on ‘School Musical’

“We’ll get this before opening; I promise you,” director Donna Inglima told her cast Monday.

With “High School Musical” set to open at the Laguna Playhouse in two weeks, anxiety is running high at rehearsals.

The show is nearing the sell-out point, surprising everyone involved.

More than 200 teens tried out for 35 coveted spots in the show, based on a 2006 Disney TV movie that left millions of kids spellbound.

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“I think the cast is very talented,” Inglima said. “They’re dedicated, but they’re tired at this point.”

“I thought it would be amazing just to get in,” said Sophia Tupy, 15, who plays Kelsi. She was surprised that she was cast as a named character.

“It’s really cool knowing you’re one of those people who made the cut,” said Sarah Busic, 13, a Laguna Beach High School student. “Only a few places in California have performed it before.”

The rehearsal area looked like a classroom in its own right, as kids worked on homework, knitted or played Nintendo while waiting for their scenes.

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Rows of school desks mounted on wooden platforms form a classroom; sharp-tongued antagonist Sharpay’s pink locker becomes a major focal point.

Like the show-stealing “Darbus the Deranged” in the show, Inglima takes away ringing cell phones and hushes chattering teens. She and her crew don’t mince words around their chosen performers.

“Every time you come in to rehearse, you have to give more than you gave before,” she said to them.

She told students they would face the “Wrath of Inglima” if they weren’t on their best behavior.

Busic said Inglima’s an incredibly kind and fun director.

“If you have personal problems, you can tell her about them,” she said.

“She already knew my name on the first day of rehearsals,” said fellow Laguna Beach castmate Sarah Davis, 15.

Although neither teen was addicted to the musical when it first came out on the Disney Channel, they now find themselves singing or dancing sporadically.

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“You can’t get the songs out of your head,” Davis said.

“High School Musical” joins another popular production this year at the Playhouse: “Menopause the Musical.”

The film version of the former was a phenomenon; its quadruple-platinum soundtrack was the best-selling album of 2006.

Its sequel opened in August, and has had more than 7 million viewings.

The movies’ popularity lent itself to the production, Inglima said.

“They love it so much,” Inglima said. “The benefit of going with something they know and love is immeasurable, really.”

But the theatrical version isn’t a line-for-line adaptation of the movie, Inglima said.

All the big numbers are there, as well as the musical-within-a-musical. However, many musical numbers were added, and the plot is different enough to keep familiar audiences engaged, Inglima said.

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The differences between the two also posed difficulties for cast members.

“It’s a behemoth,” she said. “This is a deceptively big show. The music is very demanding, and they come in knowing the movie, but the music is very different.”

Most notably, the film’s famous balcony scene is missing. But the school’s musical, “Twinkle Towne,” is renamed “Juliet and Romeo,” playing on the themes of both the main production and the one within the play.

“I think audiences are really going to like it,” Busic said.

Who: Laguna Playhouse

What: “High School Musical”

When: Oct. 26 to Nov. 4

Where: 606 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Cost: $16-$20

Information: (949) 497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com

Sell-Out Risk: High



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