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Joan Marcus
The cast of Disney's "High School Musical" performs. The company will finish its 55-week tour in Salt Lake City.

When thinking back to the year 2006 and the year's top CD, it's doubtful Disney is the first thing to cross your mind.

But a little made-for-TV movie on the Disney Channel, called "High School Musical," was busily breaking just about every Disney record, snatching the top spot for best-selling album and starting a frenzy that would captivate the world, yield many sequels and create a live stage version. (And in case you haven't heard, the show was filmed at East High School and other areas around Salt Lake City.)

"High School Musical" dances, sings and dribbles its way to the Capitol Theater on Tuesday and will be filled with all the songs and characters your family has come to love.

Quickly, since many of you have been singing along for the past two years, "High School Musical" is the story about high school basketball star Troy and shy brainiac Gabriella, who both have a secret love of singing and performing. They sign up to audition for the high school musical, causing all sorts of growing pains for the students who seem to prefer their traditional, clique-induced "status quo" (one of the songs in the show).

Speaking of which, the stage version has all of the songs from the original soundtrack plus two new ones written especially for the stage. And this production features something else to pique your interest: a Brigham Young University grad.

Clark Johnsen, who was going to BYU to prepare for medical school, is in the ensemble and an understudy for the lead role of Troy.

"I had gone to med school and done all the prep for that. I decided to move to New York with one of my best friends, and I decided to take a year off and audition and see how things go," Johnsen said in a phone interview from Kansas City. "I realized I was competitive. I started getting tours and bigger parts. To the great surprise of everyone, I've been able to make a pretty decent living for myself as a performing artist."

But he arrived there by accident. Johnsen, who needed a P.E. credit, took a dance class. As his prep work for medical school continued, he was advised that a liberal arts major would make him unique, as opposed to a science major.

"I got really into the dance thing. At one point I had enrolled in seven dance classes, then a friend convinced me to get into the music dance theater program — and I barely made it. I was on a waiting list and someone deferred enrollment and I got in. It was sort of a fluke."

"He is a fabulous singer; it's his singing that blew us away at the audition," said Lisa Stevens, choreographer for the touring show, "and what a nice guy he is — he's the type of person who walks in the room and you just want to get to know him. He's a nice addition to our company."

Stevens, who stepped out of a production meeting for the stage version of "High School Musical 2," talked about the choreography for the show.

With the DVD version including a dance track so fans can dance along with Troy, Gabriella and the students, Stevens had her work cut out.

"I wanted to create something new but not change the style and flavor," said Stevens, who watched the DVD when it first was released, "but only the first few minutes, just to get the flavor."

With the "youthful energy" in mind, Stevens' choreography is just as fun as the movies and "it has a lot of street jazz and some hip-hop, break dancing plus nuances of the classic MGM musicals as well. So there's little taste of the classics, but for the most part, it's fairly modern."

"I'm so excited to come back home to Utah, it's one of my favorite places," Johnsen said. "I have quite a bit of family in Sandy. I get to stay with my Aunt Julie who is all-out. Aunt Julie is all-out!"

Surrounded by a cast of professional actors with Broadway credits on their resumes, Johnsen has a unique way of standing out. "I do several tumbling passes during 'Head in the Game' — the big basketball number. Then at the end I have these eight toe touches. It's a fun feature at the end."

"High School Musical" will finish its tour in Salt Lake City, having played 41 cities in 55 weeks. "And the kids love it," Stevens said. "The energy is so contagious. The kids are getting up and moving to the songs they know so well, and they're just enjoying the show for the magic that it is."

When the curtain comes down, Johnsen will catch a red-eye flight back to New York to audition for another show the next day. "It's a lot to do, but it's exciting and fun. It keeps you young."

If you go

What: Disney's High School Musical

Where: Capitol Theatre

When: Tuesday through Aug. 3

How much: $27.50-$62.50

Phone: 801-355-2787

Web: www.arttix.org


E-mail: [email protected]