Who is Considered a True Wildcat at East High?

By Chelsie Hall and Bella LaChance

The musical that changed it all for us as kids, High School Musical. When it was a Friday night on Disney Channel and the movie trailer came up on the TV, you knew exactly what was about to start playing. The basketballs bouncing. The crowd cheering. Troy and Gabriella singing to each other. Dancing numbers at their finest. It was time for High School Musical. Being produced by The Walt Disney Company and directed by Kenny Ortega gave HSM the perfect jumpstart that it needed to be popular. The two main characters, Troy and Gabriella both are trying out for the lead roles in the school play. Troy, the star basketball player, and Gabriella, the scholar student, both end up falling for each other. These two are almost the package deal, that little boys and girls almost dream to be like when they are older. Instead of ever tearing down students, Troy and Gabriella want the best for their friends and classmates. They are role model students throughout the whole movie, while throwing some Romeo and Juliet like scenes in there too. In this day and age, we are thinking back on HSM and realize that there are only two people of color who have lead roles. These two characters are Monique Coleman (Taylor) and Corbin Blue (Chad). As we delve deeper into the concept of POC in HSM, Chelsie Hall and I realized progressions with these two characters and negatives because of there only being two Black characters. 

Bella LaChance (BL) is a freshman who is looking into majoring in Human Organizational Development or Communications. She currently is living in Nashville and is playing basketball throughout her academic career at Vanderbilt. 

Chelsie Hall (CH) is a senior, who will be graduating this spring. She majored in Human Organizational Development and had an amazing basketball career at Vanderbilt. Chelsie is taking her talents to Louisville to complete her graduate degree. 

On April 21, Chelsie and I were texting about whether or not we were going to do the 3rd Essay and we both decided “Yes of course!!” As soon as we started brainstorming, we were thinking about different musicals on Disney we have watched as kids from The Lion King to Moana and then High School Musical popped up and rang a bell in our heads. 

BL: Hi Chelsie! I am glad to be working with you again for another dialogue conversation on this musical. What is your favorite part about High School Musical? Does it bring back any memories as a kid? 

CH: Yes! So excited we get to talk together again! Wow, High School Musical feels like ages ago.  Of course, I watched it the night it premiered but I wasn’t always the biggest fan.

I did know the lyrics to most of the songs, but I wasn’t obsessed enough to watch it over and over again. I rather try to learn the dances during the commercials than watch the actual movie. When High School Musical came out, I was 7 I think and was definitely starting to become obsessed with basketball. So, let’s say that all the basketball scenes were my favorite especially when they won the championship. I was impressed with Troy Bolton’s bball skills while also being able to sing really well. The “Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma” warmup between Sharpay and Ryan was also one of my favorites because I thought it was so funny. I remember I would do it with my friends at school randomly. The characters were all so fun, who would you say is your favorite?

BL: My favorite character is Troy Bolton of course! Funny story actually, I used to have a picture of Troy Bolton from HSM in my bedroom for so many years. At the time, I was a tomboy and wore boy clothes, but I still loved my Troy Bolton sticker. Of course I was obsessed with his looks because who doesn’t think Zac Efron is attractive. Another feature of Troy that was attractive was the confidence that he carried either on the basketball court, on the stage, or just in daily life. His basketball ability was extremely inspirational to me at a young age. I know, I know, it is JUST A MOVIE, but little girls love to be inspired by the cringiest, cutest things sometimes. He always carried this confidence with him when he would dribble down a basketball court or shot a three point shot. He received a lot of fame merely from his basketball ability in high school. When I would watch the movie, I would be like, “Wow, I want to be famous as a basketball player in high school too.” Tell me about your favorite character!

CH: I definitely feel that! I loved how much confidence he had on and off the court. I too wanted to be that famous as a basketball player! My favorite character would have to be Taylor McKessie. I loved how she had beauty and brains. I mean I wasn’t trying to be the captain of the Decathlon team, but I thought it was pretty cool. She was also a best friend that I would want. I loved how she was nice and friendly to Gabriella when she first got to school and how she always kept it 100. I know she did break up Troy and Gabby for a moment, but she did confess and apologize for what she did. And then after she does everything in her power to help Gabriella make it to the school musical in time. Her fling with Chad was also very cute.Taylor McKessie | High School Musical Wiki | Fandom

BL: Oh my God! I love Taylor McKessie too! I also did adore her friendship with Gabriella because Gabriella definitely did need a true friend being a new student at East High. This raises an interesting point for me. This was one of the musicals that Disney chose to put people of color in the musical. There were only two Black characters, which are Taylor McKessie and Chad Danforth. There were progressions with these two characters and negatives because of there only being two Black characters. Of course, them being the two black characters in the musical has allowed them to keep diversity flowing throughout the entertainment world. A fun fact about these two characters is that initially they did not have a leading role. It was only until the producers saw how influential and effective they were in the musical they were given more of a lead role. These two characters helped to get rid of the stereotype of only white people being considered “smart.” As you said, Taylor McKessie, is insanely smart and the captain of the Decathlon team. A negative thought that came into my mind was, “Why are there only two black characters throughout the film?” I feel as if there was another HSM directed, produced, and filmed now there would be more black characters because of how the entertainment business is finally evolving. 

CH: Awwww Taylor and Chad were soo cute together. #powercouple. Yeah, you bring up an interesting point Bella about the lack of Black cast members. It makes me think if they were really “All in This Together.” I read an article about Monique Coleman (Taylor) talking about how her iconic headband look was her idea AND because they didn’t have anyone on set who could do Black girl’s hair. I mean we all LOVE the look, but I guess she didn’t really have a choice. However, there are positives to having these two Black characters be leads. Along with eliminating the stereotype of only white people being smart, they also eliminated the stereotype of black women having attitudes and being sassy. Taylor was the opposite. As the class president, she was friendly and always willing to give a helping hand. I think Chad was just the average jock who loved his sport and always kept it cool, nothing having to do with his race. Chad and Taylor were also the best friends of the main characters, Troy and Gabriella, which allowed us as kids to see and encouraged us to be friends with everyone. Looking back, I feel like there were important lessons that I learned from HSM that I still use today. Were there any lessons that have stuck with you growing up and that you still use today?

BL: Oh my God Yes I totally agree. I do love the headband look on Taylor too, but it is disrespectful to not put someone on the staff who could do her hair. To answer your question, I learned very important lessons as a little girl watching HSM. In one of the beginning scenes of the movie, Gabrielle goes to sing karaoke and Troy is hesitant to go, although he has a hidden passion for singing. After going on stage with Gabriella and having a beautiful performance, he gained so much confidence and accepted his passion, instead of being embarrassed about it. The song they sang together is, “Start of Something New.” It is ironic that this is the name because Troy’s singing career is also the start of something new. This showed me as a child and others watching that it is good and okay to try something new because you may love it! I have always struggled with taking the risk and having the fear of being embarrassed, but Troy overcame that. How about you? What is your favorite song/lesson that caught your attention? 

CH: I love that!! I’m not much of a risk taker either so I definitely feel that. My favorite song and definitely one of the catchiest songs would have to be “Stick to the Status Quo.” The “NO, NO, NO,” after someone would tell their deep secret would always get stuck in my head. I also really enjoyed the dancing and how cohesive the group looked. From the break dancing to dancing on the tables, the scene was amazing to watch with how many people were dancing at the same time. The lesson I learned from this song which is actually opposite of what the song is saying but is to not always stick to the status quo. I learned that I should always be myself and that it is “cool” to be unique. During the scene, I could relate to the pressure of a group telling you how you should be and how it’s easier to just not talk about what makes you different. When I was younger, I was a tomboy and always wanted to be playing sports. The girls would look at me crazy sometimes but when I got them to play, they would enjoy it just as much as me.

BL: It was amazing working with you again Chels! I’m going to miss you! Have a great time at Louisville!

CH: I always love working with you Bella! Thank you so much!! I will miss you mucho

Coming to You Live: The Wiz Live! Black Culture Released

By Chelsie Hall and Bella LaChance

Premiering live on NBC in 2015, The Wiz Live! is a new, adapted performance of the original Broadway musical in 1975. It was produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. The Wiz Live! presents the blues, soul, and R&B in a set of musical performances. The story of The Wiz Live! is not extremely different from The Wiz!, but it has a more urban cast and setting to it. This version of the musical was so important because of the Black cast that it had, including Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah. Compared to the Wizard of Oz, The Wiz Live! has culturally brought together so many families. Children, teenagers, and adults all enjoyed the more upbeat version of Dorothy finding the Wiz. Through the dialogue, dancing, and singing, Black culture was thoroughly represented during the whole production of The Wiz Live! 

Bella LaChance (BL) is a freshman who is looking into majoring in Human Organizational Development or Communications. She currently is living in Nashville and is playing basketball throughout her academic career at Vanderbilt. 

Chelsie Hall (CH) is a senior, who will be graduating this spring. She majored in Human Organizational Development and had an amazing basketball career at Vanderbilt. Chelsie is taking her talents to Louisville to complete her graduate degree. 

On a beautiful Sunday morning on April 11th, Chelsie Hall and Bella LaChance came together to describe and talk about their love for The Wiz Live! More information about what they thought and analyzed will be presented next! 

BL: Hi Chels! I can ask you the first question about The Wiz Live! What did you think when you watched it for the first time? 

CH: Watching The Wiz Live! for the first time was really entertaining. I had never seen it before so I was excited to watch an all black cast perform. I’m usually not the biggest musical fan because of all the singing but I really enjoyed all the singing and dancing while watching The Wiz Live! And when I looked up the cast, I got even more excited to see that Ne-Yo and Queen Latifah were in it. The musical did not disappoint. From song to song, I was ready to get up and start dancing. I could listen to them all day and for once I wasn’t frustrated with hearing a song every 5 minutes. Was this your first time watching it too or have you seen it already?

BL: I totally agree with you on your analysis of the show! This was my first time watching it and I loved it! I thought it was way better than the normal Wizard of Oz. Funny story actually. When I was younger, I saw the Wizard of Oz in Canada and I fell asleep watching. Throughout this musical, I was singing and bobbing my head to all of the different songs. They were great dancers also, which is way more entertaining than usual musicals. I feel like in other musicals the performers are sometimes off beat. The most special thing about this musical was how authentic and real it was. How did you think this play portrayed black representation? 

CH: The dancing was actually insane!! I mean I feel like I can dance a little bit but definitely not as good as them. To have an all black cast, there is obviously black representation. I really enjoyed the way this musical showcased Black culture and how talented we can really be. It’s really encouraging to see Black talent solely being displayed especially in a positive light. I feel like the producers, Meron and Zadan, knew how important this musical was going to be for the culture and they wanted to make sure they represented the Black community in a positive light. It really helps when the producers and creative team understand the culture and really make an effort to display the uniqueness of it. You can tell how much effort they put into the casting, the costumes, and even the sound and lights. Black culture is represented everywhere in the musical. Also, the musical not only showed Black excellence but also showed social progress. Dorothy being an intelligent, caring, and charismatic, young woman who was not afraid to say what she believed and would hold everyone around her accountable, represented feminism. While also having the Wiz be a gender-bending character showing the Queer culture being openly embraced on stage. 

BL: I mean yes you and I both know you can dance more than just a little bit. I also focused on the Black representation in a positive light. It did feel so refreshing to see all the smiles and passion being put into this production by such special characters. I love your mention of the gender-bending character as well. Most musicals or entertainment businesses would be scared to put out characters who are not the normal gender stereotype. The Wiz Live! really checks all of the boxes regarding inclusion of Black culture and gender-bending characters. People who watch this musical will feel involved and accepted, which also brings more viewers to the show. That really was a great point that you brought up!  

CH: For a Black queer woman like myself, the Wiz being gender-bending was something really cool to see! I was actually confused at first because I knew Queen Latifah was supposed to be the Wiz and when she came out, I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be male or female. So, I did a little bit of research and realized that they actually did it on purpose. And I also learned that during the scene that Dorothy and her crew get let into Emerald City, the choreographer, Fatima Robinson, paid tribute to the art of Vogue which is a style of dance that begun in the Black queer ballroom in the 1980s.

BL: Wow I had no clue about the connection to Vogue! That makes me love this musical even more! I love that gif too. Speaking of dancing, what is your favorite dance number in the musical? Mine is “Ease on Down the Road.” The stage was set up incredibly, especially during the Flower scene where “Ease on Down the Road” was sung. It featured several other characters that were picked up by Dorothy throughout the song. As soon as the song begins, you can tell there is an R&B, soul, and blues spin on it. The lyrics within this song were very fitting to the rest of the musical. For example, when they sang, “Come on, ease on down, ease on down the road,” the repetition of the lyrics stuck in viewers’ heads for days. I was singing “Ease on down the road,” for like three days after I watched the musical. This updated version of the song “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” keeps the listener and watcher entertained because of the continuous changes of beats throughout the number. The tempo was more upbeat and fast paced compared to the original Wizard of Oz. The dance moves were on beat and filled with rhythm throughout the entirety of the number. There were a lot of stepping and hand movements that changed as the beat would drop. I mean look at the gif of the tin man dancing! 

CH: I think we can both agree that Ne-Yo did not disappoint as Tin Man, not only was his singing amazing but his dance moves were always on point. My favorite dance number would have to be “You Can’t Win.” At first it seems like it’s going to be a sad song because Scarecrow is trapped by the Crows but as the song starts to play, you hear the up-beat tempo. From the trumpets to the crows dancing, it makes this “negative” song seem fun. I enjoyed watching the crows flip around the stage and my favorite part was when Scarecrow started to buss a move. He was able to finally get down from the pole he was on and he was able to show off some of his moves. With the dark lighting and black costumes of the Crows, Scarecrow sticks out even more with his yellow undertones.  It was a really fun performance to watch, and it made me want to get up and start dancing too. And let me show off Scarecrow real quick. 

BL: Okay okay you win for sure with Scarecrow dancing. I loved the analysis we had talking about The Wiz Live! I hope we can work together again soon Chels! 

CH: So glad we got to talk about this amazing musical! 

After finishing the discussion, Chelsie and Bella were able to discuss the different tactics used by the writers and everyone involved with this musical to show Black representation through entertainment. Black Culture was highlighted throughout every costume, dance number, and song that was sung. More musicals like this in the entertainment business must be portrayed for everyone to see and love!

Jack and Crutchie take on NEWSIES!

Watching and listening to the popular musical Newsies! brings about a thought. This has to do with white masculinity with a little bit of spice. If you have watched this musical directed by Jeff Calhoun and Brett Sullivan, you know exactly what I am talking about. Newsies! shows a difference in masculinity between two different characters, Jack Kelly and Crutchie Morris. The smallest detail throughout this musical shows us how dependent it is on masculinity. 

Jack Kelly, the so-called leader of the pack, displays masculinity from all angles. The way he walks with his chest up right, full of confidence, and even stomping when he dances like the man he is shows masculinity. Each and everyday, Jack gets all of his Newsies together and explains how they are going to attack each day. He is a role model and is essential for selling papers each day. His masculinity, as well as his gender, is what carries the Newsies success from day to day. How would this group be different if it was led by a female or femininity? This is an interesting question because the Newsies would operate differently. There may be less violence and fighting, and more brainstorming and action for improvement. 

Another way that Jack Kelly shows masculinity, in more of a toxic way, is the way he handles his crush on Katherine Pullitzer. Almost every time he sees her, Jack looks her up and down, which leads Katherine to have butterflies in her stomach. In modern times, when men catcall or look women up and down, it is seen as utterly disrespectful instead of a turn on. Aside from Jack’s looks and looking women up and down, he finds a way to display his masculinity through his outfits. Although he is poor, Jack finds a way to wear a nice vest and dressy shirt to look put together. This could be to put on a show for the ladies or to sell more newspapers. The world may never know! 

Jack’s leadership style is a part of his personality by the way he talks, moves, and lyrics he says during songs in the musical.  The musical authors of this number were displaying Jack’s masculinity through the songs, lyrics, and dialogue in NEWSIES! For example, Jack goes chest to chest with one of the fellow Newsies who was going to quit the group. He is showing that he is not backing down and loyalty is necessary. Following this, as the Newsies reunite because of Jack, they all start chanting, with Jack leading, “STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!” in the song “Seize the Day.” Another line from this song is, “You’re still our brothers and we will fight for you.”  “Seize the Day” shows the ruiniting and determination that the Newsies gained because of Jack. As Jack is saying, “STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!” this is setting up for the Newsies big break: to create their own Union. As complications occurred, a fight broke out! Jack is not scared to sacrifice his body and fight for the ones he loves. By the way he fights and shows these masculine qualities, he is looked at as a father figure or older brother. 

On the other hand, there is another guy who is looked upon as a boy, named Crutchie Morris. The form of masculinity that Crutchie displays is different than Jack. Lacking the dominance and physical strength that Jack has, Crutchie shows masculinity in his determination and how positive he is. He values the Newsies as his brothers and looks at them as his ride or dies. 

A fun fact about Crutchie and where he gets his name from is because he has to carry a crutch for his bad leg. Instead of using that as a negative or disadvantage, he uses it in a creative way. For example, when the Newsies first decided on going on STRIKE, Crutchie used his crutch and made it into a sign that said “STRIKE” on it. I thought this was a smart move on the producers part of the show because it is inspirational. Crutchie not giving up and continually fighting is rather inspirational. 

The musical authors were smart when it came to Crutchie singing the song “Letter From the Refuge.” One of the lines in the song was, “Hey but Pulitzer, he’s goin’ down! And then Jack, I was thinking we might just go, like you was sayin’.” This shows how much Crutchie believes in the Newsies to keep going and take down Pulitzer. I also personally love how this song was written in a “Dear Jack,” form because it is seen as personal. Crutchie looks at Jack as his best friend, role model, and older brother. 

The most interesting part of masculinity and gender that came up during NEWSIES! Was between Jack and Crutchie. They are the best of friends and Jack continually supports Crutchie, although he is not the same as everyone else. I felt a personal connection to Jack and Crutchie’s relationship, but through femininity. I have an aunt who is handicapped, like Crutchie. Although she cannot walk and talk, she continually keeps fighting like the strong woman that she is. I feel like Jack in this situation because she looks up to me and I will always be determined to help her and other women in my life. I try to show my femininity through the way I live my life. I try to influence and inspire others who are younger than me to make an influence, just like Jack does.  Although Crutchie and Jack are different regarding the way they display masculinity, they are both essential to NEWSIES! Without the leadership, motivation, and determination, the Newsies group would not be together anymore. I wholeheartedly believe that Jack leads by his voice and leadership, while Crutchie leads by example and inspires others.