A High School Musical 1973
A High School Musical 1973

Book, Music & Lyrics by Bob Walton

The Groovy Backstory

My wife, Laurie Walton, is head of performing arts at the Riverdale YM-YHWA here in the Bronx, and she is always searching for a show that will be successful for the program and fun for her teen group, The Riverdale Rising Stars. The kids always enjoy doing new shows with contemporary music and the parents enjoy comedies, and the director likes a show with a lot roles to please the kids AND the parents. But, honestly, how many times can you do FOOTLOOSE, GREASE, ZOMBIE PROM and Disney’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL?

I realized that the ‘70s haven’t had too many shows set in that era yet, and while I grew up in this decade, somehow it is now a “period piece?!” The clothes, the hair, the lingo, the music, the dances - all are fun for kids and are ripe for parody now. While HSM-73 isn’t QUITE a parody of the shows and movies listed above, it’s very close! The musical gives the kids a chance to be almost caricatures, in a Saturday Night Live sketch kind of way, but the show also has some sweet moments as well. Sadly, the theme of a school losing it’s funding and having to close is very real today.

The Outtasight Roles

The characters in the show are all pretty recognizable stereotypes, with perhaps the exception of Leroy Brown, Jr. While I did originally envision the role as an African American, I feel he should be very unthreatening, comically so. We, the audience, know he is totally overacting his tough guy role, it’s the gossip and rumors that make him seem scary to these overly innocent kids. Another good comparison might be the role of The Fonz in Happy Days. Everybody was scared of him, but he almost never did anything bad. At heart, Leroy is just a misunderstood kid who LOVES musicals! All the featured roles allow kids to come up with their own characters, and Adults can either be played by kids who are “acting” old...or they could be played by teachers from your school. Kids always enjoy seeing their teachers be the butt of jokes, but perhaps surprising them with hidden abilities and talents!

The Tubular Technical Elements

The set can be as simple or as detailed as budget allows. Since it all takes place in a school, most set pieces should be available fairly easily. I feel the more visually interesting the show can be, the better. Psychedelic lighting, the opportunity to incorporate projections, not only for specific moments noted in the script, but to show pictures of your high school from the 70s can be fun and embarrassing to teachers and parents!