In 2006, High School Musical premiered, and my life changed. The movie was a huge hit, spawning live tours, ice-skating renditions, two sequels, a spin-off and, yes, a musical adaptation. Fourteen years later, and all the young boys and girls who loved high school musical are in their early to mid-twenties, entering the workforce or finishing up college. And yet, High School Musical gets another life in the form of a series that follows high schoolers and their drama as they put on a stage production of HSM: The Musical at the high school where the original movie was filmed. Yes, very meta, but also a bit out of left field. Though the series might be best suited for children and tweens, much like the original film, it’s also for its original fan base.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (here on after shortened to HSMTMTS, so I don’t have to spell out that long title ever again) follows two high school juniors, Nini and Ricky, and their mutual friends (as well as frenemies, enemies, crushes… the list goes on) as the drama club puts on a production of High School Musical: The Musical under the guidance of the one and only Miss Jenn. Nini and Ricky are exes who recently broke up, after Ricky failed to reciprocate Nini’s confession of love, which was in the form of a cute-but-cringey Insta post. They’re the leads of the show and, of course, the leads of the musical, Gabriella and Troy. Cue the drama! Cue the angst! Cue the musical numbers!
You’ve got that right! Musical numbers abound in this new take on HSM. Of course, the cast does some lovely renditions of the movie’s original songs, but the true stars of the show are the new songs, some written by the cast, some performed live. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Julia Lester and Olivia Rodrigo kill it on “Wondering,” or Rodrigo’s wonderful ballad “All I Want,” and you’ll be convinced.
Yes, the show is about HSM, and it has musical numbers (obviously), but it’s much more than a regurgitated version of a classic. The show is smart, self-aware and reaches new depths that the movies didn’t quite cover. Watching HSMTMTS was such a fun time, but it was also really heartfelt and touching. Yes, I loved seeing the original film approached as if it were a period piece, and I appreciated the homage to the original series, but the show has a wider emotional reach, discussing divorce, LGBTQ+ rights, anxiety, healthy communication and even a little bit of toxic masculinity. Disney+ revamped the original film and made a series that reflects (liberal) 2020 values, and it was refreshing to watch! Rather than have a queer-coded character like Ryan, there is actual representation. Rather than dismiss the complex relationship between parents and their teenage children who want to be more independent (I’m sure you remember those good old days), the show takes the time to have those heavier, meaningful conversations. The series might have High School Musical in its name, but it stands on its own.
Yes, the series is about High School Musical, and it has all the usual angst and musical numbers, but HSMTMTS is much more than a tween drama; it’s a show that speaks to a large audience, 11-years-old or 21-years-old. Log in to your Dinsey+ account (or your friend’s) and cue up HSMTMTS. You might be there initially for the nostalgia, but you’ll stay for the great acting, singing and plot lines.