Even though it’s been nearly 14 years since the first “High School Musical” film was released, the franchise still has a large fanbase. While some may have been skeptical at the news of a “High School Musical” series, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is an original, enjoyable show that doesn’t try to copy the movie and instead lets it serve as a background while the series’ focus is put on new characters and storylines.
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” follows a group of students attending East High School, the same high school where the original “High School Musical” movie was filmed. The school’s eccentric new drama teacher, Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders), decides to put on a theater production of “High School Musical” and is tasked with casting the roles alongside the ambitious student choreographer, Carlos (Frankie A. Rodriguez).
The parts of Troy and Gabriella are given to former boyfriend and girlfriend Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Nini (Olivia Rodrigo), creating an uncomfortable situation as they have to deal with their unresolved feelings for one another. Nini’s boyfriend at the start of the season, EJ (Matt Cornett) and new student Gina (Sofia Wylie) are cast as Chad and Taylor, while Ms. Darbus goes to EJ’s cousin, Ashlyn (Julia Lester).
Though a large part of the show takes place at school or during rehearsals, there’s plenty of screen time dedicated to the characters’ outside lives. A significant part of Ricky’s storyline focuses on the separation of his family, providing a narrative that audiences may relate to. Similarly, Gina struggles with a tough family situation as she deals with having been moved from city to city all her life due to her mother working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), making it difficult for her to form a solid group of friends. Even though most of Nini’s scenes deal with her relationship drama, she finds interest in the Youth Actors’ Conservatory in Denver and tries to see whether she could be admitted.
Due to the musical production, there are several fun callbacks to the original movie. Popular songs from the film such as “Stick to the Status Quo,” “Breaking Free” and “Get’cha Head in the Game,” are covered, and the costumes the characters wear are nearly identical to outfits from the film. Actor Lucas Grabeel, who portrayed Ryan in the original films, makes a cameo and performs his own number.
One of the show’s strengths is its diverse cast. Nini’s Asian heritage is highlighted numerous times, and there’s no issues or questions raised over her having two moms. The role of Sharpay is given to a boy, Seb (Joe Serafini), who’s also romantically involved with Carlos. Both the core cast and side characters come from unique, interesting backgrounds, and it offers viewers more opportunities to find someone they may identify with.
The series is filmed in a mockumentary style where the characters are given their own confessional scenes to express how they’re feeling in the moment, similar to shows such as “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family.” This allows for more comedic scenes and reactions and lets viewers get a better idea of who the characters are. Additionally, the show uses a handheld camera to achieve fast, shakier shots that help give it exciting energy.
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is a fun, lighthearted show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and provides tons of nostalgia for fans of the original movie. While an airdate hasn’t been officially set, the show is getting a second season, which is all the more reason for people curious about it to give it a shot.
There are plenty of avenues for the show to explore in its next season, as some storylines were left open-ended in the finale. The show’s episodes are easy to watch, not too long and could all be finished in a single day. If one is looking for a solid, entertaining new program, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” shouldn’t be overlooked.
Contact Kira Baldau at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.