Bonnie Story takes us behind the scenes of High School Musical 3
By Ken Martinson, Marching.com
Bonnie Story is no stranger to creating choreography for large groups.
She was co-choreographer of the opening and closing ceremonies at the
2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. She has also worked on the
halftime show for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
Perhaps that's why she has been so successful in her latest assignment:
taking a huge cast and making it look good on the movie screen.
Story is one of three choreographersworking with Kenny Ortega and
Charles Klapowresponsible for the larger-than-life production
numbers in High School Musical 3
. If ticket sales are any indication,
the choreography team has reason to celebrate: Variety.com reports that
HSM3 set a new record for musical motion pictures, earning $42 million
its opening weekend and outperforming recent box office hits such as
Hairspray, Hannah Montana and Mamma Mia.
During the production process, Story faced challenges similar to what
marching band show designers have to solve: make various groups of
performers look good together. In marching band, the groups are winds,
percussion and color guard. In High School Musical 3, the groups are
everything you could imagine in production numbers with as many as 2,000
"We worked with a lot of different groups for the opening scene," Story
said. "We had the basketball teams, the cheerleaders on both
sides, the drill team (Kitty Cats) that sat on the East side and
did choreography to match some of the cheerleading moves. We had pep
bands, we had kids with flags and more."
The huge cast of extras was necessary to bring the show to life on big
movie screens. The first two installments of High School Musical were
movies made for television. Translating the show to theatres meant
everything would be bigger: cast, sets and budget.
"My main thing was to keep it real but also very big and exciting,"
Story explained. "The most important thing to me was that it was a full
picture of movement, keeping it real, but at the same time all
Story's past experience with large groups was valuable, but she says
there is big difference about designing for live performance versus
"In a live performance, you look at the whole picture at all times.
Whatever the audience sees needs to be completely performed," she
explained. "When you filmthe gym scene for examplewe may be only
seeing a quarter of the gym."
The segmentation of what is visible to the camera, and how each shot
relates to the story, drives the choreography.
"When filming, everything is focused on the particular shot: Who is in
the shot, what is it supposed to accomplish, what are the specific
reactions. What happened before the shot, in the middle, and what is
coming," Story explained. "All these questions dictate choreography,
action and movement."
Although marching bands do not have a primary story line in High School Musical
3, they do have a role. Numerous sections of the soundtrack
include catchy drum cadences. A pep band and snare line perform during
the basketball game scenes. Band and orchestra instruments are on stage
during the graduation scene. Flags and drill teams are involved in
High School Musical 3 is filled with fun choreography that unifies many diverse elements.
Perhaps equally appealing is the movie's positive display of students who break barriers between sports, music and drama to work together.
Photos courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Copyright 2008 Marching.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.
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