Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Is There Life After High School? Dec 17, 2008 ***
Is There Life After High School?
Book by Jeffrey Kindley, Music & Lyrics by Craig Carnelia, by Stella Entertainment
Chapel off Chapel, until 23, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Dec 17, 2008
In a peculiar collision of events, Is There Life After High School? coincided with my nostalgic revisiting of childhood photos. I was primed for a musical about the high school years.
Jeffrey Kindley and Craig Carnelia wrote a show with specific relevance to American schools recognisable from US teen movies. Strangely, although the characters, songs and stories are really entertaining and the cast strong, the American characters’ recollections are totally alien to my school experience.
The opening chorus of The Kid Inside sets the tone of the musical. The show was written for nine adults ten years after graduation who reinhabit their younger selves, shifting from adult self to the past, vulnerable, teenage self. Directors Paul Watson and Peter Fitzpatrick double cast each role with a teenager playing the character at school age.
This device provides experience for the younger cast and doubles the voices to give a rich, full chorus. There are interesting moments when older selves talk to or observe younger selves. The small stage, however, feels crowded with 18 actors.
The show combines songs and vignettes. It is not a linear narrative following the lives of individuals but a montage of character types and stories. Actors play a variety of characters defined by accents and attitude. We meet the cheer-leader, football star, geek, outsider, radical, lonely guy, chubby boy, the pretty girl and others.
The over-riding feeling is of nostalgia in these bitter-sweet reminiscences. These adults have regrets and suffer a sense of loss for various reasons. The sing about The Things I Learned in High School and Second Thoughts. The Diary of a Homecoming Queen depicts regrets about losing popularity. Fran and Janie is a beautiful duet between two friends (Natasha Bassett, Lizzie Matjacic OK) who lost contact after school.
But most of the stories are about failures and vulnerabilities at high school. They regret never confronting the abusive football coach or teacher, never asking out the pretty girl, being cast in the lead of a show, winning a playground fight or being the chubby, victimised kid.
But all remember the craving for acceptance and the abiding sense of competition. And all believe that their adult lives are simply High School All Over Again. They never escape that vulnerable kid inside.
By Kate Herbert