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High School and the make-believe grandfather - By Rebecca Wicks

I awoke at about 4am this morning in a plush chamber of a room, decorated in burgundy and gold. I was wrapped in soft blankets on a four-poster bed and as I opened my eyes and blinked furiously at the light, Andrew Lloyd Webber walked in and thanked me for doing the washing up. He promptly left my room, so I climbed out of bed and walked onto the landing where he was descending the stairs with a huge suitcase. “Where are you going granddad” I asked?

"I'm off to LA with Tim, we're casting the new musical today" he replied - at which point, I noticed Tim Rice at the bottom of the winding staircase, holding an equally sizeable suitcase and waving at me.

As I promised to look after the house in their absence I was distracted by the somewhat unattractive face of a girl called Catherine, running across the Yorkshire Moors - the moors that had quite clearly just appeared in Andrew Lloyd Webber's house. I stood outside, feeling the wind rush across my face as I thought "Ah, she's not as pretty as I imagined her in my head, they really should have got a prettier actress to play her part," but then Heathcliffe came crashing past me, sweeping ugly-Cathy up in his arms and kissing her atop a blustery hill.

When I awoke for a second time, this time in the real world, I was mildly confused as to why I would dream of such things. I can only conclude that these mysterious night visitations come from my unsettling delight at the upcoming High School Musical, at DUCTAC. So strong is my sense of excitement that Webber, the king of musicals and the epitome of drama itself has almost become a relative, perhaps?

My friend ‘M’ who works for another well-known Dubai listings magazine, went undercover at the auditions a month back, to report from behind-the-scenes. He shaved a few years off his age to audition with the kids (aged 10-23) and actually got through to the third round. When he fessed up, I think the team were a tad disappointed that this 28 year old Londoner wasn’t truly up for ditching his dignity and day job to participate full-time in their upcoming, school-based extravaganza. But he decided that watching the thing would be more than an adequate musical feed, in the end.

So, what makes High School Musical so special? The whole thing started back in 2006 when the budget movie version aired on the Disney Channel, starring tweeny-boppers Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens; basketball star and ‘math freak’ opposites. Of course, the inevitable falling in love occurred over a karaoke party and the modern day Romeo and Juliet bashed down all their social barriers by starring together in their own High School Musical. Awww. Three follow-up films later and the world still couldn’t get enough, and so it is that even Dubai now can’t turn a blind eye. We can’t have Phantom of the Opera, but we can have a bunch of beaming Disney kids reaching for invisible stars and back-slapping one another on fake playgrounds.

Theatre shows of any kind are so few and far-between in this city though, that even musicals featuring smarmy, smug school-kids singing high-pitched numbers about caring, sharing and breaking into their trust-funds get some of us former-west-end-junkies counting down the days in our diaries.

As for the Wuthering Heights part of my dream? Well, I am five chapters into the novel, which I have decided to finally try and read (having been confused and befuddled by the zillion characters in previous attempts to get my head around it). Such a romantic am I. All this current ‘drama’ is clearly affecting me more than I thought...

High School Musical is on at Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre. July 24th to July 26th.

Entry Fees Stalls - Dhs199, Balcony - Dhs149, VIP Boxes Dhs1000

Posted: 17 July 2008

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