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Paper or Plastic (musical)

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Paper or Plastic
A High School Musical
Paper or Plastic - Key Art.jpg
2019 Title Art
MusicJoe Stevens
Keaton Wooden
LyricsJoe Stevens
Keaton Wooden
BookMiss Hazel Jade
Jeff Brown

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Paper or Plastic is a folk/rock musical with a book by Miss Hazel Jade and Jeff Brown, and music and lyrics by Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden. Commissioned by The Jade/Anthony Company, it received a developmental reading from UC Davis' Ground & Field Theatre Festival with direction by Mindy Cooper; and it starred Mackenzie Johnson and Noah Mac.[1]

Paige is adapting to her family's new normal after her parents’ very public divorce. Gabe wants nothing more than to escape his parents altogether. What do these two seniors from Nichols Hills, Oklahoma have in common? They both work for Singleton's General Store and have to decide their futures now. Through an achingly beautiful folk/rock score, Paper or Plastic explores the journey these two will take in search of something real, proving that chasing your dreams is hard to do at any age.[2]


Act I[edit]

Paige Lang and Gabe Michaels, two teenagers from Nichols Hills, Oklahoma, are on the search for some sense of normalcy in their lives. Though she comes from a well-off family, Paige is adapting to her family's new normal after her parents’ very public divorce, all the while feeling suffocated by her now very dependent mother, Ellyn. Gabe is a conflicted boy from a suburban family who longs for graduation day so he can take a gap year to escape the emotional abuse his mother, Johanna, suffers from his father, Joel.

The employees of Singleton's General Store begin their day the same as any other: in total angst (“Paper or Plastic”). Amidst the chaos, Gabe musters up the courage to finally ask Paige if she'd like to “chill sometime” after two whole years of working side by side. Feeling jealous, Paige's best friend, Xander, a lanky transgender boy, attempts to break up the conversation. Neither Xander or Gabe quite succeed at what they set out to do, as Xander retreats and Gabe leaves for the day without a definitive answer. Shortly after, Xander and Paige playfully banter, and as he mocks Paige about Gabe asking her out, their boss Charity, an older Jewish woman, decides to close the store for the evening. Charity, verklempt by the seriousness of these teenagers’ relationship drama, decidedly gives Paige some timely advice to enjoy her senior year of high school before she graduates and has to face the real world (“High School Klezmer”). Thereafter, Charity leaves for a date with her new delivery boy toy, and Paige and Xander head to the back of the store for the break room (“Transition 1”).

That evening, while Paige is administering Xander's testosterone injection, she tries to talk with him about Gabe's offer. Uncomfortable with the conversation, Xander changes the subject by insulting her about her dreams of wanting to go to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles – which triggers the unsupportive sentiments shared by Paige's mother. When Xander storms out of the door, Paige escapes within herself to proclaim that she won't allow others to write her future for her (“My Design”).

Later in the evening as Paige is completing her homework, Ellyn interrupts, hoping the two of them can have a bit of mother-daughter time, which she unfortunately uses to take jabs at Paige's father. When Paige asks her mother how she's actually doing with the divorce, Ellyn drops a bombshell: her parents won't be able to pay Paige's tuition into the fashion institute she's dreamed of attending, all because of their looming divorce. Not wanting to argue, Paige reluctantly folds. After realizing that Ellyn's cooking may not have been the most appetizing, they decide to go out for pizza instead.

At school the next day, Alyssa and Bobby, two overly enthusiastic student council representatives, greet the students with their overbearing daily announcements. (“Transition 2”) In the hallway during passing period, Paige and Xander run into the ruthless Angelica Ford and her two minions, or as Paige and Xander refer to them: “The Rugrats”. Angelica is popular, mean, and an all-around bitch. When Xander proactively takes the opportunity to protect his best friend, he and Angelica go back and forth, shit-talking at one another. Gabe walks up with two of his baseball buddies, and Angelica turns even more vile and takes jabs at Paige, rendering Gabe speechless. As Angelica and her groupies depart, Paige also asks Xander to give she and Gabe a minute to talk. Although she's slowly continuing to break his heart, Xander gives Paige what she wants. Breaking up the tension, he rest of the Student Council stroll in, selling Valentine's Day grams for students to buy (“aCappellaGram”). Gabe uses this opportunity to “serenade” Paige with a gram of his own, asking her to join him for a Valentine's Day date with a little unsolicited (but still enthusiastic) help from Panda•monium, their high school a cappella group (“Gabe’s Date Proposal”). Taken by his kind gesture, she gladly accepts!

Their date starts at a retro diner, where Paige sees a new side of Gabe: he's attentive, genuine, and they have a lot in common. She begins to feel as though she and Xander may have pre-judged him; and likewise, Gabe finds appreciation in the carefree, dreamer that Paige is, and for once, feels like he can be completely himself. The date progresses to the drive-in movie theater, Dat's Amovie, where Paige and Gabe connect over their shared interest of wanting the people in their life to be honest and transparent with them (“Something Real”).

After an incredible evening, Gabe arrives home to his mother who desperately wants every detail of his date with Paige. But they are interrupted when Joel, horribly inebriated, stumbles into the house from a date of his own. When Johanna questions Gabe's father about his whereabouts, Joel lambasts her with insults. Johanna reveals that she can't wait for Gabe to graduate so that she can proceed with filing her divorce. Joel passes out and Johanna takes his phone to confirm his unfaithfulness. Joel wakes up to her little investigation and attacks. Gabe immediately comes to his mother's rescue. When his father storms out, Gabe makes the decision to end the charade he's been going along with his entire life (“The Show Is Over”).

Later that week at Singleton's (“Transition 3”), Xander tries to tease details about Paige's date out of her until Gabe's little sibling, KC, falls off of a ladder. Paige rushes to assist them and is greeted by a jealous Angelica and The Rugrats who have come to further harass Paige about how she doesn't neatly fit into Gabe's social clique (“The Game”). Although Paige gains a little bit of a voice, it's not enough to trump Angelica's ruthless attacks. After Angelica and her minions are gone, Charity and a begrudging Xander take the opportunity to instill some strength and confidence in Paige with some well-meaning, advice (“What’s In Store”). Before Charity can do too much damage, Paige is rescued by Gabe, who's come to pick her up after her shift. Despite Xander's protestations, Charity allows Paige to leave work a few minutes early. This leaves Xander jealous and once again heartbroken by Paige, and he retreats within himself.

Moments later in the breakroom, Charity attempts to snap Xander out of his anxiety, but she makes a misstep when she assumes that all of Xander's jealousy is strictly about Paige. Xander cautiously discloses to Charity that he is trans, and because of his terrible family history surrounding his coming out, he's afraid to let Paige know how he feels. Charity instantly accepts him, assuring Xander that he has her unending love and support.

Back at school, as the end of the day approaches, Alyssa and Bobby once again greet everyone with their ridiculous announcements (“Transition 4”). Angelica sees Xander sulking at the sight of Paige and Gabe's PDA and devises a plan: using Xander as a pawn to drive a wedge between the couple. She shows him “receipts” of Gabe's plans to skip town after graduation, which includes a ticket for a flight he's had booked to Paris since the semester began. Infuriated, Xander approaches Gabe for answers — to which Gabe responds like a trapped cat in defense — leaving Paige confused and simply wanting the truth. This leads to a huge, public blowup between the three before school lets out for Spring Break (“The Answers”). Gabe asks Paige to leave everything behind and come with him after graduation.

Act II[edit]

Weeks later — after a call with her father about graduation plans, Paige sits up on her bed and daydreams about whether she should go to California and pursue her dreams of being a fashion design student, or stay in her hometown and live the life everyone else wants her to, or follow Gabe and his dreams (“The Next Step”).

Moments later, her mom knocks on the bedroom door and greets Paige with an apologetic Xander, who's come to visit Paige after discovering that she decided to skip Prom. They talk about the argument that occurred before Spring Break. Xander apologizes, and they joke and gossip about what everyone was wearing. In a moment of levity, Xander genuinely encourages Paige to follow her own dreams and not waste them invested in a relationship that may not go anywhere (“Take It And Run” / “Transition 5”).

Back at the store the next day, Paige walks in on Charity opening mail she, decidedly, had sent to Singleton's because she didn't want her mother finding out that she still applied to FIDM. But before she can fuss, they are interrupted by Xander and Gabe who have made up rather quickly and are now seemingly friends. Xander uses the excuse of helping Charity with a “dying ghost” in the back as a way to leave Paige and Gabe an opportunity to talk. Before getting into anything heavy, Gabe pleads for Paige to open her mail — to which they hope it will be an acceptance letter into FIDM, New York. She opens it — and it's not the answer they were hoping for. Gabe reveals a second letter for Paige that he retrieved from the mailman in passing; when she opens it, the two discover that she has, indeed, been accepted into FIDM, Los Angeles. However, this immediately forces them to talk about what their future together (“We’ll Wait And See”).

Paige returns home to find her mother in her room, crying over her failed dreams for her family and daughter. But things are looking up, as Ellyn reveals to Paige that her father wants to see the two of them, as a family, to patch up sore wounds. Ellyn expresses to Paige that she wants her to do what makes her happy, even if that means going against the norm of life in Oklahoma. Paige tells Ellyn the news that she ended up applying to FIDM and was accepted. With the promise of a new job, Ellyn pledges to find a way to pay for Paige's education. The two decide to go out for dinner to celebrate; meanwhile, the mood is very different at the Michaels’ home. Johanna has found the confidence to take back her life and kick Joel out, for the sake of her children. The two mothers, Ellyn and Johanna, pen letters to their graduating kids, mutually expressing that they want them to go and follow their dreams, regardless of the journey (“I Wish You Knew”).

Back at school, Paige and Angelica make up and decide to end their four-year long feud (“The Game (Reprise)”). As they get ready for graduation, Paige, Gabe, and Xander take a moment to reflect on their journeys, celebrating each of their newfound strengths. But they also recognize that no matter what the future may hold, they're going to take it full force, without fear of what they might not yet know (“The Unknown”).

On their way to take their seats for graduation, Paige and Gabe's mothers meet one another, and Colton joins them to support his daughter, having finally made amends with Ellyn (“Grad Ballad”). During her graduation speech, Paige encourages her graduating class to follow their dreams, to which their parents and community share the common message (“Dream Your Dream / Epilogue”).

Musical Numbers[edit]

2019 UC Davis Reading

Principal Roles and Casts[edit]


Character UC Davis Public Reading
(2019) [3]
Paige Lang Mackenzie Johnson
Gabe Michaels Noah Mac
Xander Young Jacob Michael
Ellyn Lang Lisa Halko
Charity Lisa Quoresimo
Johanna Michaels Tara Henry
Joel Michaels Kevin Gish
Angelica Talia Friedenberg
Ensemble Naveen Bhat
Alyssa Buchthal
Ben Carter
Olivia Caserta
Joseph DeLeon
Katie Halls
Erolina Kamburova
Charlie Lavaroni
Shannon McCoy
Stephanie Nielsen
Noah VanderVeer-Harris


  • Paige Lang – A charming, ambitious young woman in her senior of high school. Beautiful, intelligent, and at the top of her class — but not the social spectrum, she almost always has her hair pulled back in a messy pony and is a bit of a tomboy. If she weren't in high school or Oklahoma, she might openly identify as bisexual or pansexual. Though she comes from a well-off family, she's adapting to her family's "new normal" after her parents' very public divorce. Like most girls in her class, she's attracted to Gabe Michaels but feels he won't meet her intellectual wavelength.
  • Gabe Michaels – Also charming and a senior in high school, he's a natural pretty-boy baseball jock with a slight edgy European fashion-sense; and because of this, he might be perceived as gay, but he refutes any claim thereof. He comes from a middle-class family in the suburbs of Nichols Hills, OK. While he can very well think for himself, he's become accustomed to others thinking for him.
  • Xander Young – Paige's best friend, a junior in high school. A lanky guy with a cleverly-tattooed sleeve, he is somewhat of an introvert when he's alone; but when Paige is around, he transforms into a protective extrovert. He has a major crush on Paige, and thus is overly-protective, especially around Angelica or Gabe; but has vowed to see her strictly as a friend, so that he doesn't ruin their friendship.
  • Ellyn Lang – Paige's mother; a sassy "helicopter parent" in the middle of a divorce from Paige's father. Recently, she's become dependent on her daughter and a little loose with her liquor. She fears returning to the job she had before she met Colton — of selling makeup/beauty products to women in their 20s.
  • Charity Singleton – A brassy older Jewish-born woman who's no longer practicing her religion; a real “charity case”. She typically wears a tracksuit, bifocal glasses, and a silver-haired wig. Recently, she began dating younger men.
  • Johanna Michaels – Gabe and KC's mother; with recently-forming alopecia, she has become reliant on wearing headscarves, as a means for comfort in spaces where she formerly felt "in control". As a result of the emotional abuse she receives from her husband, Joel, she awaits the day when she can divorce him, after Gabe graduates from high school and is out of the home.
  • Joel Michaels – Gabe & KC's father; an inattentive jerk who has shown absent behavior to his family. Being that he was 18 years old when Gabe was born, he feels resentment that he never got to enjoy his bachelor days. And yet, he never had an example in his own father's absence from his life growing up.
  • Angelica – The pretty, plastic-like, and popular bully among the senior class; she's a callous, calculated tyrannical bitch to anyone outside of her “social rank”. She is almost always accompanied by Cynthia and Jamie, whom Paige and Xander have adopted the call “The Rugrats” for, because of their sloppy copycat appearance of Angelica.


  1. "New Off-Broadway-Bound Musical PAPER OR PLASTIC Will Receive First Developmental Reading This December". Broadway World Off-Broadway. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  2. ""PAPER OR PLASTIC" FREE READING OF NEW MUSICAL". UCDavis Department of Theatre and Dance. The Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  3. "Full cast announced for reading of 'Paper or Plastic'". Davis Enterprise. McNaughton Newspapers, Inc. Retrieved 5 August 2020.

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