Fourteen years on from the launch of a floppy haired Zac Efron in High School Musical and the House of Mouse are back with a brand new bunch of uber talented teens in one of the first original shows to launch Disney+. But if, like me, you distinctly remember the original and the idea of this instantly makes you feel old, well wait until you try and unpack the layered concept for this ultra-meta, ultra self-aware mockumentary!
Filmed at East High School, High School Musical, The Musical – The Series captures the behind-the-scenes drama of staging the upcoming anniversary performance of High School Musical. Directed by Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders), a back-up dancer from, uh, High School Musical, the series follows the teenage cast as they navigate the ups and downs of high school life.
There’s no denying the talent that’s comes from Disney productions (remember Ryan Gosling in The Mickey Mouse Club), so it’s no surprise that this cast are equally as gifted. Olivia Rodrigo’s Nina shines when belting out “Start of Something New” as she’s finally recognised as a lead rather than her usual chorus role. She shares a touching duet with Julia Lester’s Ashlyn in episode two, which proves to be an impressive (but all too scarce) original song, along with possibly the true MVPs of the show; the bonkers, over the top drama teacher Miss Jen and her fabulous assistant, Carlos (Frankie A. Rodriguez).
The main problem however, is a lot of the characters fit into the all too predictable stereotypes from the original film, just with a few different elements. Joshua Bassett’s Ricky clearly fits the bill as the Troy Bolton role, but he’s a skater not a basketball player, while Matt Cornett’s EJ wants to be a Troy, but he’s a Chad. It’s all very confusing!
But what’s even more difficult to get your head around, is the many different genres the show’s trying to be; is it a musical, high school drama, nostalgia driven comedy or mockumentary? Personally I believe the show works best when channeling the latter, using similar shaky camera zooms and talking head segments from The Office, Parks and Recreation and more recently American Vandal. Two episodes in and I genuinely can’t quite work it out!
There’s definitely glimpses of nostalgic humour and charm in High School Musical, The Musical – The Series, but tonally it hasn’t found it’s high note yet. Maybe it’s time to rewatch Glee and leave this one to the kids…