Nov 27, 2007 at 7:05 pm

‘High School Musical’ — Hoosier style
Film director Barry Blaustein (“The Ringer,” “Beyond the Mat”) is wrapping up his latest documentary, tentatively called “American High School Musical.” The movie is about the theater programs at Floyd Central, New Albany and Jeffersonville high schools.

Why Southern Indiana?
“I was blown away by these extraordinary kids. The teachers are truly inspirational,” Blaustein said in a recent telephone interview. “I hesitate to call it a ‘feel-good’ movie, but that’s what it is. The kids’ honesty is moving. They show us their insecurities. Some are very emotional, but they’re also focused and well-adjusted.”
Blaustein was amazed that smack dab in the middle of basketball country, these high schools place such a high value on the arts, and that big money is being spent on them.

“Participation in theater teaches kids the same thing as athletics — the importance of teamwork. But it’s even more valuable, because it’s a place where outcasts can be part of something,” he said.

Blaustein fears the movie might paint an unrealistic picture of the state of modern American education because these schools are atypical. But, he added, “I wanted to show there are some things in America we’re doing right … that this is what can be achieved. Not all kids are bad. There are lots of good ones out there.”

He’s right. I recently saw the final performance of New Albany/Floyd Central’s joint production of “Aida” (the musical, not the opera), and my mind was blown. Incredible sets, lavish costumes, professional choreography — and voices as good as any you’ll hear on Broadway.

After the show, Rebekah Condra (who played Amneris) stood alone, lost in thought. I wondered if she was sad the show was over. “I’ve been bawling my eyes out,” she said. It hardly seems right that this show (with a $40,000 budget) ran only two weekends. —Sherry Deatrick