To quote Sharpay Evans (Alexandra Bianco ’23), the Kenyon College Players’ (KCP) “High School Musical 2” shadowcast was “Fabulous.” On Friday and Saturday nights, KCP took to the hardwood to dazzle and delight the audience with a lively performance of Kenny Ortega’s beloved sequel.
Though Kenyon students may be more used to seeing the basketball teams play in Tomsich Arena, the cast and crew made the court their home. “Since shadowcasts draw such large crowds, we wanted a space that could fit hundreds of people safely,” Producer Liza Borghesani ’24 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We also wanted to match the movie’s vibe, and Tomsich Arena felt like our best option.” Though the cast and crew had been rehearsing for months, they only were able to rehearse once a week in Tomsich. “It’s amazing how [Director] Zola [Gray ’23] and the cast adapted spacing and transitions so quickly,” Borghesani said.
With the bleachers full of Wildcats fans, Gray and choreographer Kayla Blythe ’25 came onto the court to announce that the show was about to begin. In keeping with the participatory tradition of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadowcasts, Gray announced a list of call-outs for the audience to shout. Highlights included responding with “daddy issues” whenever Sharpay said “daddy,” and calling out “baddie” whenever Fulton (Talisha Ward ’23) appeared. If audience members had trouble remembering all the callouts, members of the Kenyon men’s basketball team were on hand on the bench to help.
From the show’s opening number until the final bows, the cast moved in perfect sync, both with each other and with the movie running behind them. Blythe’s choreography was superb throughout, especially in the iconic number “I Don’t Dance” and when all of the East High students celebrate the arrival of summer through dance in “What Time Is It?” In the former, the cast and the dance team (Rocky Reisz ’25, Sofia Wilson ’23 and Madi Hamilton ’23) conjured up a baseball diamond with their movement, perfectly complementing the tension between Chad (Edward Moreta ’23) and Ryan (Will Dean ’23).
For Blythe, who had never choreographed a musical or shadowcast before, working within the constraints of the original movie proved to be a rewarding challenge. “[Choreographing a shadowcast] forces you to really tap into your creativity and think outside the box in different ways,” she said. “I found that to be the most challenging portion … How do I add my own creative artistic flair and voice to that iconic choreography that already exists?” Though it was a test for Blythe, she passed with flying colors.
The cast featured standout performances throughout, but the lead couple, Troy (Tommy Sinclair ’26) and Gabriella (Cat Mori ’25), were particularly outstanding. Mori grounded the show with her portrayal of Gabriella, bringing emotional depth, nowhere more so than in “Gotta Go My Own Way.” With phone flashlights lit, the audience sang along with her as she left Troy behind (temporarily, of course — this is a Disney movie). Sinclair, on the other hand, was delightfully committed to Troy’s physical comedy. While Mori sang “Gotta Go My Own Way,” Sinclair took advantage of the moments Troy was not visible to run around the court heartbroken, earning laughs from the audience. In the next number, “Bet on It,” Sinclair upped the ante, matching on-screen Troy’s madcap dance around the golf course.
As Troy and Gabriella’s tormentor, Bianco was a pitch-perfect Sharpay, fabulously unhinged and always dressed to the nines. She blended Sharpay’s spoiled attitude with her conniving schemes to win Troy over from Gabriella and the Wildcats perfectly. Though the hardwood court prevented her from wearing Sharpay’s signature heels, Bianco was still a larger-than-life presence in “Fabulous” and across the entire show.
Finally, in a winking nod to the show’s venue, Gray recruited a group of Kenyon’s own basketball players (Max Belt ’25, Drew Valentino ’24, Dylan Fuerst ’24, David Mazon III ’25, Juan Sergio Matabuena ’25 and Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25) to join the cast, fittingly as college basketball players who attempt to recruit Troy. Decked out in their Owls uniforms, the group made the most of their small roles, bringing comedy and basketball skill to their scenes.
After the show concluded with a rousing performance of “All for One,” the audience gave the cast and crew a well-earned standing ovation. With the curtains closed on High School Musical 2, Borghesani is excited for the future of theater at Kenyon. “Student theater at Kenyon is getting bolder and more innovative every semester, and each show finds a way to change the status quo,” she said. “I am so excited to see what ideas student directors will come to us with after High School Musical 2. KCP is ready to take it on.”