Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

High School Musical


I first heard of this when the buzz started building for the sequel, and I learned that it had been a monster hit on TV, sold a zillion DVDs, and spawned a best-selling album, a theatrical tour and an ice show, for chrissake! It has millions of devoted teenage fans. As a lover of musicals, I had to see what it was all about.

The bad news is … it’s not much. The music is undistinguished, and there’s not enough of it. (Oh, right, I hear you say: “The food here is terrible!” “Yes, and such small portions!”) What I mean, smart-ass, is that if you’re going to make a musical, you need more numbers than are on display here. The dancing is only so-so, and again, not enough. The plot:

Zac Efron is a jock, Vanessa Anne Hudgens is a brainiac, two well-known high school slots that one dares not transgress. But they both reluctantly discover that they like to sing and dance, and defy tradition by trying out for the yearly musical production, against long-time song and dance king and queen, Lucas Grabeel and his sister, Ashley Tisdale, the class bitch. Naturally Z&V win the parts, the championship b-ball game, and the college bowl. Ta-da!

Aside from the above problems, the film has a glaring flaw: Ashley and Lucas are much, much better singers and dancers than Zac and Vanessa. Their characters are solidly grounded in Broadway traditions. It appears they actually rehearse! (What a concept, you’re supposed to just let it all hang out, I mean, really!) In fact, Ashley is by far the brightest, funniest, most talented person in sight. The bad girl always get the good lines.

So okay, this is Broadway 101, right? And that’s not all bad. In fact, I see a couple silver linings, for lovers of musicals. (Musicals always have a silver lining, right? Well, except for Sweeney Todd …) The message of this piece is to break out of your limitations, not run with the herd, to go for your dreams. Will this change the rigid caste system of the horror show that is known as “high school?” No … but it can’t hurt. And beyond that, this is probably the first exposure a million teens have had to a story where the characters can suddenly break into song to express their feelings, except for Disney animated features like The Little Mermaid. I see that as a good thing, too. Maybe their next exposure will be to West Side Story, and after that, maybe Romeo and Juliet. And then, who knows? La Boheme? … naw, you’re right, probably not. But maybe Chicago.