Courtesy of Shrunken Heads Production Company

From May 27 to May 28, Shrunken Heads Production Co. put on their rendition of the nostalgic and iconic Disney Channel original film “High School Musical” at the Thunderdome. Shrunken Heads is UCSB’s premier musical theatre company that performs shows and is completely student-run. This is Shrunken Heads’ first live performance since the pandemic began and the cast members are excited. 

“This is my second production with Shrunken Heads, my first one was my freshman year right before COVID hit where we did ‘Mamma Mia,’” said Dakota Tyson, a third-year aquatic biology major. 

“I had come in from high school doing a lot of drama and plays, and I came to the university and wanted to get back into it. It is harder to get into the major plays at the university if you aren’t a BFA or acting major, so Shrunken Heads was a great opportunity for me to get into musicals at the university without taking an acting minor. My friends from ‘Mamma Mia’ told me about this production, which I was really excited for since it was High School Musical,” Tyson said. 

There are also many other cast members who are acting with Shrunken Heads for the first time, such as second-year environmental studies major Jenny Jaimes. “I had not gotten the chance to participate in any other Shrunken Heads productions because I had not heard of them prior to this quarter,” Jaimes said. “I became interested in their company and productions after a friend sent me their social media accounts.”

The iconic high school sweethearts, Gabriella Montez and Troy Bolton, will be played by Haeli Ross, a third-year english major, and Joseph Henschel, a first-year environmental studies major. Ross and Henschel shared that they both enjoyed their first production with Shrunken Heads and made many fond memories during rehearsals and cast hangouts in general. 

“My favorite memory was in the first few weeks of rehearsals. Our director told us to analyze our characters, creating backstories and recent occurrences in our characters’ lives to really bring the show to life. We all sat in a circle and went around telling the stories we love while being in character. Everyone was so creative and hilarious, and that’s when I realized how lucky I was to be a part of such a brilliant and talented cast,” Henschel said.

His co-star, Ross, mentioned how her favorite memory was when “Troy had a mishap while changing into his jersey costume … four people had to help and it was the funniest thing happening backstage while a scene was running on stage, because something like that very well could happen during the real show.”

All of the cast members had their personal favorite scene numbers, as there are many iconic scenes and songs in “High School Musical.” Jaimes mentioned how her favorite number was “definitely the ‘Get’cha Head in the Game’ number.” 

“It features the entire basketball team, including our team captain, Bolton, and took the basketball players much time, practice, endurance and dedication to get it done and cleaned up. The number is super dance heavy and I feel it is one of the more recognizable songs from the show,” Jaimes said.

Aside from Jaimes, Ross mentioned how her favorite was “Stick To The Status Quo.” “It was also the dance number we learned when we auditioned to be in the show, so it’s a nice full circle moment,” Ross said. 

Ross also shared that “The song ‘Counting on You’ isn’t a song in a movie, which is something I really like because it adds that theater magic to the show rather than it just being a reenactment of the iconic Disney movie.”

As Shrunken Heads is hosting their first live production after COVID-19 broke out, it’s truly an unforgettable feeling for everyone. 

Courtesy of Shrunken Heads Production Company

“This is my first production since COVID, and I can’t even begin to express how great it feels to be performing live again. I missed the invigorating rush of live performance, and there is absolutely nothing like performing with such incredible people by your side,” Henschel said.

Similarly, Tyson said that is an irreplaceable feeling, “being able to perform in person and perform live because you can interact with the cast, socialize and have fun, and just interact with them in a way that we just couldn’t do online.”

Musical performances are always such a blast; it takes a long time to practice and prepare, but only takes around two to three days until it’s over. Many of the cast members had reflections on the production and appreciation for their peers and cast members. 

“This production saw many, many obstacles and hardships especially with COVID safety being a concern, but everyone handled it with grace,” Jaimes said. 

“Although we had some major changes to the show, even in this last week leading up to the show, we kept our progress and rehearsals going, and simply rolled with the punches — I love and appreciate them all for that and I hope to be in future shows and productions!” Jaimes said. 

Ross also wanted to express her words of thanks to her fellow cast members.

“I am so happy I gained the courage to put my name on that Google Form and audition. I had never been in a live musical production before. so I was prepared to be intimidated by the people I was auditioning with.  I never have felt like a newbie or outcast. This cast has a special place in my heart because we all support and help one another. I really do love my wildcats,” Ross said. 

Come see these actors on stage and in their element, tonight, May 28, at 8 p.m. the Thunderdome!