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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney's "High School Musical" cancels "Christmas" ?!

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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney's "High School Musical" cancels "Christmas" ?!

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Do you want a true demonstration of the awesome power of Disney's "High School Musical" franchise? Well, never mind about the record-breaking advance ticket sales for "High School Musical 3 : Senior Year." Or the fact that Salt Lake's East High (i.e. the actual school where all three of the "HSM" movies have been shot) has become a genuine tourist attraction for that city, second only to Temple Square. Or -- better yet -- the $500 million that the Walt Disney Company has made (to date) off of the sale of "High School Musical" -related merchandise.

Did you know that Troy, Gabriella and the rest of the "High School Musical" gang have grown so powerful that they can actually cancel Christmas?

Well, "A Christmas Carol," anyway.

To explain: Year in, year out, the stage version of Charles Dickens' holiday classic is the most produced show on the U.S.'s regional theater circuit. Last year alone, there were 39 fully-professional productions staged around the country. Not to mention the hundreds of other "Carols" -- from amateur productions all the way up to full-blown Broadway shows -- that are presented from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve each & every year.

David Coffee as Ebenezer Scrooge in North Shore Music Theatre's
2007 production of "A Christmas Carol"

For 19 years now, the North Shore Music Theatre has been staging its own highly acclaimed version of "A Christmas Carol." Which many New England families have begun including as part of their holiday traditions. So imagine how shocked area theater-goers were earlier this year when NSMT announced its 2008-2009 schedule and Ebenezer was nowhere to be found.

So where did Scrooge go? Well, North Shore Music Theatre's 20th anniversary production of "A Christmas Carol" had been canceled so that NSMT could then be the second regional theater in the U.S. to present Disney's "High School Musical 2 : On Stage."

As you might expect, this schedule change didn't exactly thrill North Shore Music Theatre's subscriber base. Who -- truth be told -- are fans of more traditional Broadway fare like this Beverly-based theater's upcoming production, "42nd Street."

But strictly from a box office point of view, tossing out Tiny Tim to make room for Troy made cents ... er ... sense to North Shore Music Theatre's management. Last year's production of "A Christmas Carol" drew only 32,078 people to the 31 performances that NSNT presented over the 2007 holiday season. Which meant -- on average -- 1,034 people attended each performance of this holiday classic.

The cast of North Shore Music Theatre's production of
Disney's "High School Musical : On Stage"

Whereas the version of Disney's "High School Musical : On Stage" that North Shore Music Theatre presented last July was an enormous hit. 52,208 people caught the 38 performances that NSMT presented. In fact, there was such a strong demand for tickets that the theater actually had to add performances.

Which is why -- when North Shore Music Theatre was given the opportunity to be one of the first regional theaters in the country to present the stage version of Disney's "High School Musical 2 : On Stage" -- they jumped at it. As Carol LaRosa, a spokeswoman for NSMT, explained in a July interview with the Gloucester Times:

"We feel fortunate to be able to present the show. We realize some people are disappointed with (our decision to put) 'A Christmas Carol' on hiatus for a year. It is a tradition we intend to continue in 2009."

LaRosa then tried to put a somewhat positive spin on North Shore Music Theatre's decision to drop Dickens' holiday classic in favor of Disney's "High School Musical 2 : On Stage." Insisting that -- by doing so -- they'd hopefully turn a few more kids into musical theater fans.

Copyright 2008 Disney / NSMT
All Rights Reserved

"A lot of (the) audience (that turned out last summer for NSMT's production of Disney's 'High School Musical') was families with kids under 18. So we hope we're exposing more young people to live musical theater."

But when you get right down to it, it was finances that drove this decision. As Jon Kimbrell, the former executive producer of North Shore Music Theater explained:

"The opportunity to do 'High School Musical 2' is a very hard thing to pass up. These are difficult financial times. So you have to make the best decision you can."

Auditions for Disney's "High School Musical 2 : On Stage" were held back in September, with many of the performers from last year's production of "HSM" returning with the hope of recapturing their old roles. Rehearsals will then get underway during the first two weeks of December (Which -- given the number of actual high school students that will be appearing in this NSMT production -- rehearsals are deliberately being scheduled so they won't conflict with regular school hours). With performances being presented from December 18th through January 11, 2009.

The cast of the original company of Disney's "High School
Musical : On Tour." Photo by Joan Marcus

Now keep in mind that the North Shore Music Theatre's production of Disney's "High School Musical 2 : On Stage" is the second regional theater to land the rights to this stage show. With Atlanta's Theater of the Stars being the first. And given that the talent behind this particular production is the exact same creative team that assembled the original "High School Musical: On Stage" back in January of 2007, a show that then served as the springboard for the now-touring-internationally professional productions of "High School Musical" ... All eyes will be on the Fabulous Fox Theatre between November 6 - 16th to see if lightning does indeed strike twice. To see if Disney Theatrical does winds up with a second "High School Musical" stage show that they can then send out on the road.

Speaking of the Theater of the Stars ... Disney Theatrical is actually hoping that lightning will strike three times at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Given that -- in January of 2009 -- Atlanta will play host to the regional theater premiere of Disney's "Tarzan." Which Disney hopes (provided that this particular production is a success, of course) will help change the theater community's perception of this show.

Anyway ... Getting back to Disney's "High School Musical" franchise ... For now, all eyes are on "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." Which (if the rumors currently coming out of Music Theatre International prove to be true) will also be adapted for the stage sometime in 2009, with this show's production rights then being available in 2010.

And then after that comes "High School Musical 4." Plus "Camp Rock 2." And if those rumors of a stage version of "Camp Rock" pan out ... Well, Ebenezer could be out in the cold again come 2010.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

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  • This represents just about everything that's wrong with America today.

  • Absolutely, Tuckenie!  Why should we even create modern musicals to appeal to young people?  If "A Christmas Carol" was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for them!

  • The money follows the kids.. parents will spend on things like this.

    That being said, I already have my opening night tickets to take my daughter & two friends to HSM3, we saw the stage version of HSM in Philadelphia 2 summers ago, and my daughter is already asking for the HSM3 dolls for Xmas.

    Disney might be milking it, but they continue to keep the interest high amongst the tween. It seems that as some grow out of it (or so the kids will say), new kids are brought into the fold.

    Truth be told, as a mid-forties male, I find the HSM franchise rather entertaining. It's a safe entertainment vehicle for the kids, and has opened my kids up to watching shows like Hairspray, and now I'm introducing them to select portions of the soundtracks of Phanton and "the Who's Tommy".

  • It's just one production, people. I do wonder if there's more Hot Topic-y Christmas Carol productions out there, though.

  • Too bad about Scrooge, though there are some pretty awful musical adaptations out there. I wouldn't mind if HSM2 supplanted a few of the thousands of "Nutcrackers" however.

  • Tuckenie...we have a Presidential election splintering the country in two, we are involved in two wars, the economy is in ruins...and THIS represents what is wrong with America? Maybe it's time to look into a mirror my friend.

    For the record, I doubt Jesus will be too distrubed that a theater is looking to stay afloat with a money maker during troubling times, rather than stick with an old fashioned tradition. He has more important things to worry about.

  • In this week's "Why For," Jim Hill looks back over the history of the Disney Parks & Resorts at the rides, shows and attraction (some of them announced by Walt Disney himself) that ultimately didn't get built

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