Cappies review: All Saints presents an entertaining, feel-good performance of High School Musical

Show #1: High School Musical

Where: All Saints High School

Director: Shawna Pasini

Chelsey Helie, Critic
St. Patrick’s High School

“It is better by far to keep things as they are.” Is hiding one’s passions a reasonable price to pay just to fit in? The cast and crew of All Saints High School explored the notion of conformity versus being oneself in their production of Disney’s High School Musical.

In this musical, based on a 2006 Disney film by Peter Barsocchini, East High School is divided and homogeneity is stronger than ever. Jocks are only meant to win championships, brainiacs are meant to solve equations, and musicals are carried by the resident drama king and queen. When school musical auditions bring unlikely singers Troy Bolton, a star athlete, and Gabriella Montez, a math genius, together, the pair’s friends and rivals alike will do anything they can to maintain social order, especially when major events for each clique draw near.

True to the bustling high school scene, each corner of the stage was animated as giggling cheerleaders, stumbling nerds, and energetic athletes, all defined by unique costumes and physicality, merged to perform harmonious tunes. In “Start of Something New” even a dog followed a troupe of scurrying students across the hallway.

Brenden MacGowan, as Troy Bolton, and Emma Connelly, as Gabriella Montez, performed both upbeat tunes and ballads with immense chemistry and vocal prowess. The duo’s affinity for each other shone through in MacGowan’s frigid and uninterested tone when addressing a flirtatious Sharpay, and in Connelly’s tear-accompanied solo “When There Was Me and You.”

With their over the top movements and facial expressions, Taylor Snelling and Jacob Dool made the dramatic duo of Sharpay and Ryan ever amusing to watch. This was especially true in their constant shoving and glaring at each other in the pair’s rendition of “What I’ve Been Looking For.” Ruby Reid conveyed the timidity and awkwardness of the talented writer Kelsi Neilson in her shrinking posture at the anger of Sharpay, and multiple realistic stumbles. Lauren Butler embodied the passion of the drama teacher Ms. Darbus in her enthusiastic mouthing of lines from the sidelines. Her counterpart, Tyson MacInnis, incorporated a booming voice and stiff movements into his performance of Coach Bolton to assert his character’s authority. Some actors could have provided more energy, however all fit into their stereotypes with ease.

Jacob Dool, performing as Ryan Evans, during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /

A minimalist set, by Alora Chabot, was able to portray a gym, a classroom, and even a rooftop through the shifting of decorated panels, the creative use of bleachers, and additions like potted plants. Though it was only opened briefly, the diva Sharpay’s locker was made a standout with details like glittery stars. While moderate sound issues like feedback and late cues occasionally distracted from the scene, the crew handled them admirably, and instilled nostalgia with many retro ringtones.

The cast and crew of All Saint’s seem to have gotten their “Head in the Game” to bring this modern day Grease from screen to stage, with their considerable range and vocal talent.

Griffin Brown, Critic
St. Patrick’s High School

All Saints High School got their head in the game to produce an entertaining, feel-good performance of Disney’s High School Musical.

Disney’s High School Musical is based on the hit 2006 Disney original film. It tells the story of the various cliques at East High – the jocks, geeks, and theatre kids – and the clash between them. When Troy Bolton, star of the Wildcats basketball team, and Gabriella Montez, one of the smartest girls at the school, are sent to detention by their drama teacher, they end up auditioning for the school musical together.  Throughout the show, they face backlash from their respective cliques who think they should “Stick to the Status Quo” instead of pursuing something new, and their relationship strengthens.

One of the production’s biggest strengths was its lively ensemble. In the larger group numbers and scenes, the whole cast was consistently engaged and expressive, making every corner of the stage interesting to watch. Although occasionally out of sync, their singing and choreography was fun and energetic, like in “We’re All in This Together.” Various elements contributed well to the feeling of separated groups of students, identified solely by what clubs they were in. Once the social barriers between them broke, it was very enjoyable to see the talented cast performing in unison.

Brenden MacGowan portrayed the role of Troy Bolton with unique personality, clearly displaying his inner divide between basketball and theatre. He sang with an impressive level of musical flair and quickly became easy to root for. His love interest, Gabriella Montez, was played by Emma Connelly. She brought a level of realism to the character, and highlighted Gabriella’s timid personality. Emma’s solo, “When There Was Me And You” showcased her strong vocals and emotion. These two actors sang beautifully together and served as a great contrast to the general silliness of the plot.

Emma Connelly, performs as Gabriella Montez, during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /

The variety of supporting actors added a light-hearted charm to Troy and Gabriella’s more serious storyline. The role of Ms. Darbus was expertly played by Lauren Butler. Her physicality and comedic timing perfectly captured the quirky drama teacher role. Even when she wasn’t the focus of a scene, her facial expressions and reactions were a joy to watch. Another highlight was the connection between Ryan (Jacob Dool) and Sharpay Evans (Taylor Snelling), twins and lifelong school theatre stars. The way their personalities clashed generated a lot of laughs, especially in their often-cheesy duets.

The set pieces were quite appealing and effectively portrayed the various high school settings. Many of them were used dynamically, such as the bleachers, which were given multiple purposes that changed from scene to scene. There were some occasional issues with actors being difficult to hear, but the timing of special effect and lighting cues was almost always accurate. Overall, the attention to detail of the technical work added another layer of immersion to this classic high school story.

With a lively cast and a lot of clever ideas, All Saints High School’s production of Disney’s High School Musical proved the importance of friendship, accepting others, and straying from the status quo.

Isabella MacKay, Critic
St. Francis Xavier High School

High school and identity crises go together like acne and picture day: it inevitably happens despite one’s best efforts. All Saints High School’s production of Disney’s High School Musical was an energetic and genuine adventure about the triumphs and tribulations of the adolescent experience.

High School Musical, adapted from the Original Disney Channel movie, is a modern retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet tale. Troy, the star basketball player, and Gabriella, the shy, brainiac transfer student, bond through embarrassing karaoke over Christmas break. When they return to school, Troy and Gabriella must decide between remaining within their stereotype, or being true to themselves and auditioning for the school musical. Full of angst and all the excitement of young love, Disney’s High School Musical is an enduring story about defining oneself in a society desperate to confine people within labels.

Through the creativity, talent and perseverance of the cast and crew, All Saints High School’s performance of High School Musical was an entertaining and heartfelt display. The large cast of jocks, cheerleaders, and brainiacs who formed the student body was physically expressive and danced along during the grand musical numbers. The constant physical expressiveness of these students created an authentic high school environment.

Brenden MacGowan, as Troy, expertly captured the internal struggle of his character through his vocals. Emma Connelly portrayed the timid Gabriella both through her soft delivery of lines and occasional nervous mannerisms like pulling on her shirtsleeves. MacGowan and Connelly demonstrated their wide vocal and emotive range both as individuals and as a couple believably, especially in the song “Breaking Free.”

Coach Bolton, played by Tyson MacInnis (L), and Troy Bolton, played by Brenden MacGowan (R), during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /


The supporting cast was another highlight of the show. Lauren Butler comedically played the eccentric drama teacher, Ms. Darbus, with well-timed, obscure facial reactions and a dynamic delivery of lines. Owen Brennan developed the comedic character of Chad by remaining constantly expressive and through clumsy movements, like when the character pretended to be a monkey. Sharpay, the antagonist of the show, was played by Taylor Snelling with a passionate intensity, as evidenced by her sharp, staccato delivery of lines and amusing sneers at the audience.

Technical elements designed and executed by students enhanced the viewing experience. The lighting, by students Aquila Rheault and Jacob Dool, effectively determined the mood and atmosphere on the stage. During the song “When There Was Me And You,” the sole spotlight illuminating Gabriella conveyed the isolation and fear she felt. As well, the minimalist set was a realistic and effective addition to the show. In particular, Sharpay’s locker, covered with papers with her name, was an extremely creative way to further demonstrate her narcissism.

Disney’s High School Musical by All Saints High School was a humorous and innovative interpretation of the challenges of being a teenager and personal identity. If actual high school were as wonderful as All Saints High School’s High School Musical, reunions would always be filled with returning faces brimming with happy nostalgia.

Tasnim Musanna, Critic
A.Y. Jackson Secondary School

Flamboyant drama teachers, battling cliques, detentions, and more. All Saints High School’s production of Disney’s High School Musical immediately plunged the audience into a world of drama, love, and friendship. A world also known as: high school.

Following the theme of a modern Romeo and Juliet, the play is set in the classic flip-phone era. It introduces Troy Bolton as the popular, all-star basketball player, while Gabriella Montez, newly enrolled in East High, is a certified brainiac. After sharing a special New Year’s Eve, Troy and Gabriella feel an intimate connection that they simply can’t shake. Together, they discover their love for singing, and with the school musical coming up, it’s their perfect chance to audition for the lead roles. However, there are many conflicts along the way. An unsupportive father, obsolete friends and Sharpay Evans, a witty antagonist, are hot on their tail. With impossible choices to make, Troy and Gabriella struggle through choosing what’s best for them, and what would make others happy. This impressive stage-adapted rendition, High School Musical, recounts the tale of overcoming the boundaries of stereotypical cliques, being there for one another, and uniting as one in times of need – all in song.

Emma Connelly played the gentle Gabriella Montez with a soft-spoken sweetness that left the theatre empathizing with her various dilemmas. With an emotion-provoking voice, she deeply portrayed the internal battle Gabriella was experiencing. Connelly’s acting was a favourable embodiment of her pleasant character. Brenden MacGowan, who played Troy Bolton, complemented his character with his excellent riffs. Brenden’s smooth dance moves and singing conveyed Troy’s insecurities and hopes very well.

Taylor Snelling’s performance as Sharpay Evans was compelling. Little quirks like flipping her hair after every sassy remark, or rolling her eyes at her frustrating comrades, made her portrayal of Sharpay extremely relatable. Her spirited energy in “Bop to the Top” was infectious. Lauren Butler played the role of the outlandish drama teacher, Ms. Darbus. The skilled delivery of her whimsical lines was extremely comedic. Using the stage to her advantage, Butler artfully utilized all of the space she had, whether little or small. Even on the sidelines, Lauren expertly stayed in character.

Coach Bolton, played by Tyson MacInnis (L), and Ms. Darbus, played by Lauren Butler (R), during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /


The rest of the characters were mostly consistent in their synchronization and singing. Although some lines were lost because of the loud music, the energy of the actors was vibrant, and it didn’t slow them down. The cheerleader ensemble was enjoyable to watch, with their impressive splits and collaborative dance moves. In the “We’re All In This Together Reprise,” none of the actors seemed out of place. Their contagious energy filled the theatre, providing a pleasant experience.

At times, the microphones didn’t work, but the skilfully timed lighting changes completely made up for it. The cold hues that gently lit the stage when mentioning emotional subjects set the mood and helped provoke the intended emotions. The minimal set was used to its greatest potential. For instance, Sharpay’s locker painted hot pink was a subtle, but clever, detail that added to the overall setting.

With the actors’ flawless comedic timing and emotional delivery, All Saints’ presentation of Disney’s High School Musical was one to remember. After all, not “Sticking to the Status Quo” might not be so bad!

Hannah Scott-Talib, Lead Critic
Philemon Wright High School

All Saints High School’s rendition of Disney’s High School Musical was nothing short of amusing and innovative. For the duration of the performance, the cast made sure to put on a show like no other, adding unique twists to certain scenes and finding ways to display their talents at every moment possible.

Based on the 2006 movie, High School Musical takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the fictitious school East High. With music and lyrics by Matthew Gerrard and his team and winner of many titles including Soundtrack Album of the Year, this musical begins with high school juniors Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, who meet and sing karaoke together on a ski trip. Later, the two meet again at school and encounter musical diva, Sharpay Evans. Sharpay, having been the lead in every past musical, assumes that Gabriella will audition for this year’s show and starts scheming ways to stop her from doing so. Against Sharpay’s will, Gabriella attends the auditions with Troy and the two of them end up getting a call-back audition from drama teacher, Ms. Darbus. As the story unfolds, Gabriella and Troy must each overcome their own set of obstacles in order to achieve what they want, which includes leads in this year’s musical.

Disney’s High School Musical called for a witty, enjoyable performance and All Saints’ cast delivered. Showing off their dance moves in songs like “We’re All In This Together (Reprise)” and “Get’cha Head In The Game,” many of the ensembles showed no difficulty performing choreographed moves and dance numbers.

Emerging onto the stage as the popular, yet misunderstood jock, Troy Bolton, Brenden MacGowan set the bar high immediately. Singing beautiful harmonies with co-star Emma Connelly and hitting difficult crescendos in each of his songs, MacGowan’s captivating voice helped to bring the production to life. Meanwhile, MacGowan’s partner in crime was Emma Connelly, as the shy and lovable Gabriella Montez. Connelly excelled in her own ways: bringing in a sense of sympathy and belonging each time she stepped into the spotlight and portraying Gabriella’s emotions as if they were her own.

Emma Seeton, performs as Taylor McKessie, during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /

Brilliantly comedic and wildly free-spirited, in came Ms. Darbus, played by Lauren Butler. Butler adapted to the character of East High’s wacky drama teacher so well, it made it hard to tell if she was even acting. Her comedic timing was impeccable and her character movements were incredibly natural, giving the illusion that she was indeed this eccentric, whirlwind of a lady. Next was the sassy and snobby Sharpay Evans, brought to reality by Taylor Snelling. Exuding confidence with her every step, Evans had an enticing stage presence that matched the aura brought out by her character. She and co-conspirator Ryan Evans, presented by Jacob Dool, had great chemistry: bringing to the stage with them a very Sharpay-and-Ryan-esque atmosphere of jealousy and sarcasm.

Done by Aquila Rheault and Jacob Dool, the lighting during the show helped to enhance and improve each act. In dimming the lights at suitable times, putting the spotlight on certain characters to emphasize their part in the scene and changing the colours to reflect the mood of a song or moment, the overall effect of the musical was rendered significantly better.

Disney’s High School Musical is a story of understanding, solidarity and friendship in which the characters learn to trust and stay true to each other and themselves. All Saints High School’s depiction of this iconic musical was cheerful and heart-warming, delving into the importance of relationships, and of learning to find strength and positivity in others.

Joshua Ossa, performs as Zeke Baylor, during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien

Snelling, performs as Sharpay Evans, during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /

Gabriella Montez, played by Emma Connelly (L), and Troy Bolton, played by Brenden MacGowan (R), during All Saints Catholic High School’s production of High School Musical, on Nov. 29, 2019, in Ottawa, On.

Haley O’Brien /

About the reviews:

The production at All Saints High School was reviewed by 23 critics representing 7 schools. The critic discussions were mentored by teacher Tracy Brown of Almonte and District High School and student reviews were edited and selected for publication by teacher Kelly Stewart of Almonte and District High School, who could see only the reviews, not the names or schools of the reviewers.

Next review: Cairine Wilson Secondary School’s production of Peter/Wendy.

About the Cappies:

The Citizen and 25 high schools are participating in the Cappies, a Washington, D.C.-based program that uses high school critics to review high school theatre. The program is a unique partnership between the Citizen, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Three schools from other boards in the region and two private schools have also joined. The four winners of the lead acting categories will receive a bursary provided by the international law firm Gowling WLG Canada LLP. Follow the Cappies on Twitter @OttawaCappies.