Nothing low-grade about the response

If there were some way to channel the excitement and energy of the young, primarily female crowd at a sold-out Wachovia Spectrum Thursday night for the High School Musical stage show, we could dispense with fossil fuels tomorrow.

That enthusiasm was not tempered by the chintziness of the concert, which was strictly cruise-ship quality. Or by the fact that the guy leading the cast onto the stage, Drew Seeley, wasn't even in the Disney Channel's wildly successful made-for-cable film.

Maybe it didn't matter that Zac Efron, the star of High School Musical, was a no-show. Seeley, who had a role in the Disney Channel's Cheetah Girls 2, did all the singing for Efron in the film. So at least Thursday's concert sounded like the movie, which in case you didn't see it, was a sort of Grease updated for the American Idol era.

The real purpose of the show was to promote the solo careers of the High School Musical stars who did take part in the tour: Vanessa Anne Hudgens (Gabriella), Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay), Corbin Bleu (Chad), and Monique Coleman (Taylor).

The Musical numbers were sprinkled in between "showcases" for each of these performers. Lucas Grabeel (Ryan) served as the evening's manic MC, going through more costume changes than any of the girls as he hyped the projects - past, present and future - of everyone who took the stage.

The segments from Bleu and Tisdale were pretty similar. They seemed to lip-sync the more aerobic dance tunes and sing only on the requisite ballad. Coleman, who competed on Dancing With the Stars, pitched in with a tango. Her only vocals were to assure the screaming audience, "You guys are awesome!"

Befitting a headliner, Hudgens had the best material and the most stage command. But her giggly between-song patter seemed rather unhinged, and for some reason she appeared to have borrowed Tammy Faye Bakker's massive fake eyelashes.

The crowd was so young that when opening act Jordan Pruitt sang a song titled "Teenager," she overshot most of the audience. So young that the video clips displayed on the Spectrum's big screens between acts included toy commercials.

But these kids were savvy enough to recognize when the crowd cam, attached to a boom, was pointed in their direction, and wave frantically in response. It may be time to start worrying about this generation we're raising.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or