‘High School Musical’ Breaks Status Quo With Homegrown Talent, Broadway Vet


A cast of young actors from across the region return to school this week in Disney’s “High School Musical.”

The musical, which will be performed on the outdoor stage of the Midland Center for the Arts, is directed by Broadway veteran L’ogan J’ones.

Kaden Furtaw, a recent graduate of John Glenn High School in Bay City, plays Troy Bolton, a star basketball player who gets involved in the school’s drama department. Furtaw describes Bolton as a nice guy who is afraid to open up to possibilities and break the status quo.

Furtaw observed how the musical reflects the experience of a real high school, if a little stereotypical. Furtaw himself started out as an athlete but got into acting after his cousin recommended him.

“My freshman year, I tried the school musical and never looked back,” Furtaw said. “I gave up basketball and football to do theater all through high school. I kind of get to where Troy is, I’m scared to go out and do something new but find out that you love him.


Hailey Allen, a new senior at Dow High School, stars as Gabriella Montez, a smart transfer student. Allen explained that since Gabriella has moved on so many times, she is able to fit into any clique, but never really belongs anywhere. Gradually, she brings Troy out of his shell by providing a safe space for both of them.

“She’s trying to come out of her own shell and be who she is,” Allen said.

The Center for the Arts’ Rising Stars program pairs a cast of young actors from the Great Lakes Bay Area with a Broadway veteran as a director. Last year’s production of “Grease” was directed by David Ruttura, who has worked as associate director for 10 Broadway productions. Ruttura was joined by vocal coach Liz Gray of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Broadway veterans Richard Carsey and Robin Masella.

“High School Musical” director J’ones made his Broadway debut in 2017 in “SpongeBob SquarePants.” A native of New Jersey and a graduate of the University of Michigan, J’ones is thrilled to be back in the state.

For J’ones, almost everything in theater can be applied in life, from the skills of listening and working with others to the messages of the shows. Over the past few weeks, J’ones has tried to emulate the environment a professional theatrical production would have, setting high — albeit reasonable — expectations for the cast and emphasizing organization.

“We hold them to a pretty high standard,” J’ones said, adding that students meet those standards. “They are amazing. They come, learn the material. The next time they come to play, it’s even better. They are really committed to it. »

Allen has performed in shows since he was 7 years old, moving from Peanut Gallery to Center Stage. At Dow High, she is grateful for the experience Adam Gardner-Northrop brought to high school theater productions. The Rising Stars program, however, was “a whole new stage” and encouraged her to pursue a career in acting.

“I’ve learned so much about myself, about my characterization and about theater in general and how to function with other people on stage that I haven’t learned in the past nine years of acting” , Allen said.

Furtaw’s first acting experience at the Center for the Arts was playing Eugene and Teen Angel in “Grease,” which kindled a love of musical theater in him. Furtaw explained that while he’s not entirely sure what work he ultimately wants, he’s sure it will involve musical theater to some degree. He plans to attend Western Michigan University in the fall.

“I think (Rising Stars) is a great experience,” Furtaw said. “You don’t get the same experience here as you would with a high school or other community theaters.”

J’ones encouraged the cast to celebrate what makes their characters unique.

“The show is really about the things that make us different and beautiful,” J’ones said. “For them to share this message with the public, they have to believe it themselves.”

Other actors include Molly Baker, Anastasia Breen, John Thomas Breen, Ella Briggs, Violet Coonan, Jenna Doyle, Aubrey Garcia, George John Hageage III, Teagan Hallock, Ella Holzhei, Ava Mata, Carmen Mata, Alina Nemarundwe, Azharia Pratt, Bella Reed, Camdyn Sabourin, Maya Shelton, Maddie Snawder, Ginny Thomasson, Regan Williams and Kellen Williamson.

“High School Musical” is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on the outdoor stage. Admission is $20 for adults and $16 for students, plus processing fees. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 989-631-8250, visiting midlandcenter.org, or in person at 1801 W. St. Andrews Road, Midland.

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