On May 21, New World Stages will host a staged reading of High School Musical in its New York premiere. But if you're a fan of the hugely popular Disney Channel movie and its resultant megahit soundtrack album, you might want to hold off on snagging one of the free tickets; this High School Musical is by Paul Cozby, a first-time Texas playwright who's currently suing Disney. Playbill today profiles the show, revealing that Cozby first pitched his High School Musical — about a crew of familiar scholastic types (the jock, the nerd, the diva) performing a musical called Cyranose! — in 2003 and had a full production in Fort Worth, Texas, in the summer of 2005. Disney's musical premiered on the Disney Channel in January 2006 and has spawned a sequel, multiple local productions, and a touring concert. It also made tween megastars out of its actors, including Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale.
According to Playbill, Cozby is now suing Disney, claiming they stole his idea and demanding they stop using the title. But he's also going full speed ahead to gain traction for his own show, staging the reading a week from Monday and inviting the New York theater world to check it out. Those who want a sneak preview can read a synopsis and listen to a few songs at Cozby's Website, www.highschoolmusical.com (presumably a thorn in Disney's side for a year and a half now).
We're hesitant to make too much fun of Cozby's show; he's obviously taking a huge risk and surely shelling out a lot of cash to stage this New York reading. All we'll say after listening to the songs is that Cozby should consider inviting Doug Simon and Bud Davenport, famed writers of Gutenberg! The Musical!, who would surely see the genius in lines like "I can't believe it / I went to Juilliard / I've got a Masters and these kids have mastered me!" (mp3)
And, anyway, who are we to judge? Cozby's goal is to be the show that schools and community theaters license when they can't afford the hefty fees charged by Disney for High School Musical (the Second). Given the obvious hunger for this kind of material — and the rapidly dwindling arts funding in schools not located in superrich suburbs — we don't see any reason why, by those standards, the original High School Musical won't be a smashing success.