High School Musical: the Musical: the Series: the Review

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Courtesy of Disney

Cast members of “High School Musical: the Musical: the Series” (HSMTMTS) pose for the show’s promotional photo.

If you were ever a fan of Disney Channel as a child, you’ve definitely heard of “High School Musical.” If you haven’t, where have you been? That being said, if you were a Disney fan, you probably were ecstatic to hear about the release of Disney+ and disgusted about the premiere of “High School Musical: the Musical: the Series” (HSMTMTS). 

Unlike many believe, HSMTMTS is not a remake of the original movies. In fact, the series is about high schoolers staging a musical production of “High School Musical,” with the added irony that the characters attend the school where the movie “High School Musical” was filmed. That sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Growing up, I was never a die-hard fan of the original movie franchise. That being said, I went into watching the new spinoff with more of an open-mind than some o.g. fans. Still, I had my doubts, but after the first episode, I was hooked. I didn’t sleep until 5 a.m. Totally worth it.

The series’ characters are original: Nina “Nini” Salazar-Roberts (played by Olivia Rodrigo) and Richard “Ricky” Bowen (played by my soon-to-be-boyfriend Joshua Bassett) are two main characters of the many. The episodes focus partly on the production of the musical, but mostly on the characters’ own lives and personal issues outside of the production. HSMTMTS tackles mature topics that I never dreamt Disney would ever tackle: Ricky wrestles with his parents’ divorce and Gina Porter (played by Sofia Wylie) struggles with being a transfer student every month among other things. And even the subtle details of Sharpay Evans being played by a gay boy and Nini’s lesbian moms make HSMTMTS all that more real. These characters don’t have the perfect, “ideal” life, just like real-life high schoolers, and I appreciate that HSMTMTS didn’t feel the need to shelter the audience.

These topics are hard to portray accurately and without offense and with the majority of the cast being “newcomer” actors, I was skeptical they could pull it off. I was wrong. The entire cast is extremely talented and have great chemistry together. Specifically, Rodrigo and Bassett’s close friendship shines whenever their characters, Nini and Ricky, rely on each other for help or have their usual ex-couple banter. When Ricky runs away from home after finding out about his parents’ divorce, he finds shelter in Nini’s house where her moms still treat him like family. Nini, uncomfortable and petty at first, realizes that this issue is far larger than their breakup, and they have their first real conversation since. It’s heartwarming how they still trust and rely on each other, and their chemistry and vulnerability broke my heart—especially when they ended the night with an excruciatingly painful almost-kiss. Stop playing. And that scene in the Season One finale? If you haven’t watched it yet, just remember that it was all improvised by Bassett.

The HSMTMTS’ cast members have great chemistry that allow them to act authentically and emotionally, but this series would be nothing without the singing and dancing, too. The soundtrack includes covers of songs from the original movies, but the real bops are the series’ original songs. Julia Lester’s (who plays Ashlyn Caswell) “Wondering” and Rodrigo’s “All I Want” were on repeat for weeks. The lyrics, piano chords, key changes and harmonies are heart wrenching, vulnerable and relatable, leaving me speechless and emotional. And I’m not even going to get into Rodrigo and Bassett’s duet: “Just for a Moment.” If I start now, I won’t ever stop. From Bassett’s smooth and heart-throbbing runs and guitar skills (not to mention his cute smile) and Wylie’s incredible dancing and choreography (they threaten my TikTok moves,) to Dara Reneé’s (who plays Kourtney: Nini’s best friend) powerful vocals, the cast members of HSMTMTS are a talented bunch. 

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There is so much I haven’t mentioned; I can’t fully form the right words to encapsulate all that is HSMTMTS. From the childlike innocence that we once felt when watching the original movies but also resonating with the characters’ difficult situations, to insane amounts of chemistry and talent from the cast, HSMTMTS was beyond my expectations. Again, I expected this Disney show to follow the trend of cheesy and cookie-cutter, but fortunately, the series more resembles something between “Glee” and “The Office.” If you’re skeptical and haven’t started watching, go watch it NOW. Beg your friends or parents for Disney+ because you do not want to miss out. Season Two couldn’t come any sooner.

 

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “High School Musical: the Musical: the Series” a 9.5/10.