Daytime’s High School Musical

When it comes to soaps, we expect high drama. What we don’t necessarily expect are high notes… but that’s what’s being belted out this week as ONE LIFE TO LIVE continues its musical episodes — centered around the Llanview high school prom — during which various characters break out into song. As with any musical from Broadway to GLEE, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But given the already-rigorous demands of daytime, the fact that the show is mounting so auspicious an undertaking is kudo-worthy.

So far, the standout performer is, without doubt, Kristen Alderson. Fans have watched her alter ego, Starr, grow up before their eyes during her stint on the show, so making her a focal point of the unfolding prom drama is a no-brainer. But the true treat on Friday’s episode was her powerful rendition of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” And when Mark Lawson’s Brody crooned “Keep On Lovin’ You” — while in uniform, no less — it was pretty hard not to swoon.

Other numbers were… well, let’s say less successful. When half the Llanview ladies began crooning “Our Lips Are Sealed” at the local beauty salon, it should have been a blast but lacked the necessary energy, with many of the actors looking as if they were simply walking through the number (and a few looking downright embarassed by it). That lack of energy was also a problem in the opening number, “Starr X’d Lovers”, during which the background dancers gave it their all but the four characters the audience knows — Whitney, Nate, Dani and Destiny — struggled to keep up before finally retreating to a raised stage and seeming to watch the action below while clapping along.

In the end, what makes the episodes work is, ironically, the same thing that makes them, on a certain level, unnecessary. We care about the storylines unfolding at the prom. Will Jessica get her memory back? Will Langston’s nasty little affair be revealed? Will Starr and Cole get their magical night at the prom despite his being in jail for having attacked her dad? In some ways, the music is a distraction to the major drama set to unfold over the next few days. But if a soap’s main goal is to entertain, then it’s undeniable that OLTL is doing that and more. And in an era when soaps are struggling to bring in new viewers, who can blame them for trying new and interesting things? (This is actually the second year that the soap has build musical numbers into prom-related episodes.) When all is said and done, what will matter is whether the tales told were compelling. If there’s a little musical fun thrown into the mix, well, heck, that hasn’t exactly been a bad thing for GLEE, has it?

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