The first High School Musical movie featuring Zac Effron and Vanessa Hudgens aired in 2006. Now, over 10 years later, a new series has been created which has sparked controversy due to it not showcasing the original cast.
In the original films, Efron played Troy, an all-star athlete that fell in love with the school’s new mathlete, Gabriella, played by Hudgens. The two broke the school’s status quo not only because of their relationship, but they also tried out for a musical together. The film follows their experience in breaking the status quo and all that followed it.
Flash forward to November 2019, when the first episode of the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” came out, brandishing a new cast. The main characters feature Olivia Rodrigo as Nini, Joshua Bassett as Ricky and Matt Cornett as EJ. Much like the original movie, it is set at East High School and follows teens trying out for a musical. But, this musical is High School Musical.
Throughout the series, the viewer gets the classical “High School Musical” nostalgia through the play the cast is performing. Yet, Disney used the play in a clever way to allow for these nostalgic scenes without ruining or trying to remake the original movies.
When the characters are not practicing for the musical, there is a lot of behind the scenes drama that occurs, such as the ongoing internal conflict Nini has between loving Ricky and being with EJ. This also creates an external conflict between Ricky and EJ which Nini is ultimately in the middle of.
The series also brings awareness to external conflicts that are occurring in some of the cast’s homes. This is a wonderful way to show that no matter what someone seems like at school, they could be dealing with other problems back at home. Not only does it cast a light on other situations, but it also shows that it is okay and healthy to talk about problems in one's personal life.
Some of these home problems include parental divorce, single parenting and constant moving due to a parent’s job. Not only does the series seem more realistic because of its inclusion of these problems, but also because of its inclusion of LGBT characters, which was not seen in the original films. Nini is shown with both of her moms throughout the series and then a romance ends up blossoming between two of the other cast members. This representation, which was not present in the original three films, is a great improvement.
Disney also brought back some of the original cast in the form of little cameos. Lucas Grabell, who played Ryan and Kaycee Stroh, who played Martha Cox, the brainiac that confesses she loves to dance in the song status quo, made some surprise appearances in the series.
Disney brilliantly found a way to create a spin-off series that featured a completely different cast, creating a show that new younger viewers will enjoy, while keeping the nostalgia that older original fans crave. The show features some scenes that mirror those of the movies and has the newer cast sing some of the original songs.
Some parts are aimed towards a younger audience and therefore come off a little cringe worthy. It has a good plot, great characters, some “The Office”-like comical camera work and just the right amount of nostalgia.