This wholesome, high-energy, Broadway-quality stage adaptation of the Disney Channel's hit 2006 movie is aimed primarily at preteens and their parents. But it should resonate with anyone who's suffered the anxieties of adolescence. The plot: high school basketball star Troy Bolton is expected to captain his team to a championship victory, while shy math whiz Gabriella Montez must lead her fellow brainiacs to victory in a science decathlon. But what each really wants to do is try out for the school musical, to the chagrin of the drama-club divas who resent the incursion. Any show that emphasizes the importance of the arts in public education while affirming diversity and declaring war on cliquishness gets my vote. And in its admittedly idealized way, David Simpatico's script is dead-on in its take on teen identity crises and kids' conflicting urges to defy authority figures and win their approval. Musical-theater aficionados should also appreciate the sly allusions to the history of shows about teenagers--from the 1930s Mickey-Judy movies to West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Grease, Fame, Wicked, and Hairspray. Director Jeff Calhoun's awesomely talented cast belts out the catchy pop score and executes the athletic choreography with joyous aplomb. a Through 9/2: Wed 2 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 6:30 PM, Tue 8/28, 7:30 PM, Sun 9/2, 1 PM only, LaSalle Bank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400, $20-$78. --Albert Williams
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joan Marcus.