Back to High School Musical: The Original

For all the time I spend talking about my affection for High School Musical, I have never officially written about it on the blog.

Well, folks, the time has come.

To commemorate the start of a brand new school year, I am assigning myself the task of rewatching all 3 movies in the High School Musical franchise and reporting about it on here. Are we excited? Are we all in this together? (Bear with me, will ya?)

♥  ♥  ♥

At this point, I’ve seen High School Musical more than any well-respected gal in her late-20s should probably admit. When it debuted in 2006, I had just moved back to my college dorm for the spring semester and I caught it on TV, never thinking it would be more than background noise as I unpacked. But I had known Zac from his days on Summerland (a short-lived series on the CW Network) and he was adorable. From his first solo with Vanessa Hudgens playing Gabriella Montez at the very beginning, I was hooked.

In ways, I see High School Musical as this generation’s Grease without the sexual innuendo and pregnancy. Two people, total opposites, meet and discover, despite their interests and level of popularity, they feel something real for one another. When Troy and Gabriella first lay eyes on each other they are at a winter resort, away from their stations at school and their friends. Forced to get up in front of a crowd of strangers and sing karaoke (the nerves!) and discover despite Troy’s athleticism and Gabriella’s alleged shyness, they sing well together and bring out the best in each other.

High School Musical Original Poster
Disney Channel

Sure, the lessons here are simple. We are not only one thing. Troy shouldn’t be seen as only a star basketball player, while Gabriella shouldn’t be limited to being a brainiac. And maybe they wouldn’t be forced to discover these shades of gray if — thanks to movie magic — Troy and Gabriella end up in the same school, same class after break. Gabriella sees this as an excuse to start fresh, while Troy can’t ditch the pressure of bringing a championship back to the high school from his dad (who doubles as the coach). Throw in an entitled diva (Sharpay played by Ashley Tisdale) and most likely, Troy and Gabriella’s connection is not meant to amount to much more than a one-night thing.

Can a jock and a nerd really fall in love? Most importantly, can all the students at this school pursue other interests without worrying about their peers judging them?

Well, not exactly. Not even a choreographed number in the high school cafeteria makes it okay. At first.

As cheesy as it was, there was always something about Troy and Gabriella that resonated with me. I think it’s probably the same feeling I had when I saw Baby dance with Johnny Castle for the first time. She didn’t have any experience, but she put her mind to something outside of her comfort zone. (Her attraction to Johnny and internal desire to do something that defied her dad being her main impetuses.) Troy and Gabriella were doing a bit of the same. (It’s no surprise Kenny Ortega, director of Dirty Dancing, also directed and choreographed HSM.) I think most people relate to that feeling of wanting to go out there and kick ass, especially when no one really expects you to.

It’s terrifying yet empowering.
Start of Something New on Disney Video

Going back to the basics of so many movies we love helped launch so many of the stars in these films (all four of the main actors are still working today) and made High School Musical the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever. EVER. Go figure. The obvious low budget, the jarring mix of Zac Efron and Andrew Seely’s voices to make Troy, and the badly dubbed scenes didn’t stop viewers from noticing the chemistry between Zac and Vanessa, the fantastic choreography performed by some outrageous dancers, and the catchy ORIGINAL tunes.

Does something have to be completely revolutionary to be a hit? Obviously not. Sometimes it pays to stick to the old formula and sprinkle it with some jump shots and a few jazz squares.

♥  ♥  ♥

A few of my favorite things:

Standout character: Alyson Reed, Ms. Darbus as the intense drama teacher. Her casting is comical because she is a Broadway actress and played “Cassie” in the movie version of A Chorus Line. Delightfully dramatic, her presence is felt and she brings a ton of comedy to the film.

Best choreographed number: “Ge’tcha Head in the Game” with “We’re All in This Together” as a close second. Dancing with basketballs is pretty memorable.
All in This Together on Disney Video

I obsessed over: Whatever book Gabriella kept carrying around on New Year’s Eve before she met Troy.

Also: Zac can freaking dance.

Great detail: Chad’s wordy t-shirts. (Corbin Bleu!)

Weirdness: Sharpay and Ryan do not act like brother and sister, at all. It throws everyone for a loop, at first, I think.

It annoyed me: That Troy and Gabriella’s friends were so close-minded AND there might have been a lack of kissing… (spoiler!)

Ashley Tisdale’s shining moment: Looking over a cafeteria of classmates indulging their deepest secrets like the evil queen in “Stick to the Status Quo.” Her singing is pretty spectacular there.

Underrated: Olesya Rulin as Kelsey — the mastermind behind the high school’s winter musical. She’s so nice and uber talented.

Biggest realization: I have no idea what their high school musical was actually about.

Bonus: Troy and Gabriella were the precursor to Glee’s Finn and Rachel. Big time. Even this dance step was in “Breaking Free.”

Tell me the truth. How do you feel about High School Musical? Is it great, does it leave you feeling totally nostalgic,
or does its popularity surprise you?

Posted by

A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

6 thoughts on “Back to High School Musical: The Original

  1. I discovered HSM in college, too, all because I was babysitting some kids who kept talking about it. So glad they did, because I really liked the movie.

    I never thought about it, but you are so right about Troy and Gabriella and Finn and Rachel. Too funny!

    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about HSM2 and HSM3

  2. I didn’t really start to feel invested in the HSM movies until number 2 premiered (conveniently enough, on an evening we were visiting our grandmother who — unlike us, at the time — had cable). I do have fond memories, though, of my youngest sister performing her 10-minute abridged version of the songs and select plot points. X) It didn’t do much to convey what in the world was going on, but it was hilarious to watch, and was my first taste of the awesomeness that is the “Stick to the Status Quo” number.
    Then, of course came 2, which I loved more than I expected to, in all its glorious over-saturated color. And then 3, the soundtrack of which I had on replay for months. But let’s save all that for your forthcoming posts. 🙂

  3. I had no idea you were an HSM fan! They had HSM3 music in the jukebox of a bar my friend’s and I used to go to five or so years ago (where does the time go?!). People would get so angry when we’d play it but there was nothing like getting tipsy and blasting “Now or Never”. Man, I really need to pull that soundtrack out. It used to get me so pumped up for work in the morning.

    Through all the movies though, I really can’t stand Gabriella. Maybe it’s because I want the Zef to myself, maybe it’s because I’m just a Sharpay fan–I don’t really know. Her solo songs are the only ones I ever skip.

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