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Behind the scenes of... High School Musical

By Gerri Miller

(Left to right) Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Lucas Gabreel
(Photo: © 2005 Disney Channel/Fred Hayes)

Hey kids, let's put on a show! That's just what the Disney Channel did with the airing of High School Musical on January 20, 2006.

It's a musical comedy set in a too-cool high school! With tones of Grease and Romeo and Juliet, the TV movie focuses on a popular basketball player (Zac Efron) and a brainiac new student (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) who share a love of singing. When they audition for the school musical, sparks fly—romantically for them and socially for the rest of the school.

Scholastic News Online was able to sit down with the stars of High School Musical, so check out what they have to say!

ZAC EFRON (Troy Bolton)

SN: We know you from dramas like Summerland. Did you have any experience with musicals?
Zac: I began in musical theater. I did Grease; I was Harold Hill in The Music Man. I had it easier than some guys at the High School Musical audition—some of them were passing out! It was Broadway style, seven and a half hours of dancing, singing, and acting. And then we had to play basketball. I was probably weakest at that but I passed—though I didn't find out I got the part for a week and a half.

SN: Sounds grueling!
Zac: Yeah, and then we had two weeks of intense dancing, acting, singing, and basketball rehearsals along with strange stretching [exercises] and things I'd never heard of before. We'd wake up at six in the morning and work until six at night. It was a very long day, but by the end I'd sustained so many injuries and was so sore but so much better than I was before. I learned more in those two weeks than I'd learned in the previous years. Every second of it was worth it.

SN: Your character is a superstar athlete who shocks everyone by wanting to star in the musical. Do you relate?
Zac: A little bit, but I was never the cool kid. There's a lot of peer pressure and you have to take everything you hear with a grain of salt and follow your instincts.

SN: Was it like summer camp for actors, all of you staying in the same hotel?
Zac: Exactly! We became fast friends, and when it was over, everyone was devastated. It was so hard not to be able to go to the hotel room next door and knock. I made a lot of good friends, and we see each other all the time. If I could go back and do it again I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Troy leads the rally.
(Photo: © 2005 Disney Channel/Fred Hayes)

SN: How do you balance acting and school?
Zac: My priority had always been school first, acting second. Then acting took off and school got put a bit on the back burner, but not too much I have a really high grade point average. But if I hadn't taken the acting route I think I might have been valedictorian. I've applied to USC and UCLA.

SN: What if both accept you?
Zac: I'll probably go with USC. They have a really good film program.

SN: What will kids learn from watching this movie?
Zac: The message from the movie is that you have to be yourself, walk your own path. Don't listen to all the pressures that come from the outside world. Troy starts off as this hotshot stud, but he's been given that name by his peers—it's not really who he is. By the end of the movie he discovers he can be himself and have just as much fun. He goes through this great transformation. By the end of the movie he's even cooler.

SN: Do you think there will be a sequel to High School Musical?
Zac: They're talking about it!

(Gabrielle Montez)

SN: What was the High School Musical experience like?
Vanessa: You have no idea how much fun we had. We all stayed at the same hotel, Little America in Salt Lake City, Utah, and we all hung out. It was great to be with everybody I love and adore to be singing and dancing every day.

SN: Do you have a musical background?
Vanessa: I started doing musical theater when I was younger.

SN: Where are you from and how did you get started in it?
Vanessa: I grew up in San Diego. I just moved here with my mom and my sister. But I'm originally from Oregon—I'm from a really small town with one stoplight. I used to sing and dance around the house. But there weren't even enough people for a dance class. So we moved to California. My parents have done so much for me. I started doing singing and dancing in theater and my friend asked me to go on an audition for a commercial and ever since then I knew I wanted to do this. Before this, I was in a girl group.

SN: Your character Gabriella is a very smart student who breaks out of her clique to try out for the show. Did you relate to her at all?
Vanessa: Definitely. I fight for what I want. But I'd rather hang out with friends and watch a movie than curl up with a book at home. I'm home-schooled—I have been since eighth grade. I'm in eleventh grade now. But I can relate because everyone feels that they have to be something they're not.

SN: What message do you think the movie has for kids?
Vanessa: Conquer your fears. Gabriella and Troy both start off as the genius girl and the hot jock and to do music we brought the whole school together and accomplished what we wanted and conquered our fears.

(Sharpay Evans)

SN: Was it fun to play the high school drama queen?
Ashley: Yes. I play Sharpay, the queen bee. That's how nuts she is—she's named after a dog! But all of a sudden things are changing and people are coming out of the cliques, so she's threatened.

SN: What do you relate to about her?
Ashley: I've always known I wanted to do acting. That's been a dream since I was 3. But when I was in school I was friendly with everybody. Believe it or not I was kind of quiet—I get that side from my dad. My mom is really outgoing.

SN: There are a lot of big dance numbers in the movie. How long did they take to do?
Ashley: All day and sometimes longer. Our bodies hurt so much. We were so sore but it was great. It was such great exercise.

SN: High School Musical is fun but has a message too, doesn't it?
Ashley: Definitely. The whole movie is about being yourself and not being in a clique. You don't have to just be one thing. Kids can get stuck in a clique and can't get out of it. You feel that people won't support you in anything else. I think it's important to find yourself in school and be happy about it and if people don't support you they're not your real friends.

SN: What's the best advice you can give about getting through high school?
Ashley: Stay true to yourself. Don't follow the crowd. I had trouble in school because people were jealous over stuff I had or did, or clothes, but I worked for it—I worked at a clothing store in the mall. My dad always wanted me to know the value of a dollar.

SN: What advice do you have for kids who want to be performers?
Ashley: Follow your dreams and work hard at your dreams. Nothing will be handed to you.


SN: Are you as into singing, dancing, and sports as your character is in the movie?
Corbin: I've been singing and dancing since I was 2. I always sang in the choir but once my voice changed I stopped for awhile because it was awkward. I went to an arts high school and got to play the lead in Footloose and I did Grease. Live theater is one of my favorite things. I have a hoop in my backyard but I'm not a huge sports person. We had two weeks of intense basketball training and at the end of it I was spinning a basketball on my finger. I like to dabble in everything—I sing, I act, I play piano, I dance. I like to cross over into a lot of different areas. I started off in acting and dancing and lately I've been getting more into music and it's going really well. I'm working on a demo right now. I'm very much into R&B, soulful stuff. I'm obsessed with the '80s—Prince is my absolute all-time favorite artist and I love Lenny Kravitz and Usher.

SN: What has your own high school experience been like?
Corbin: I've only been to a year and a half of high school. I went for the first semester of freshman year and then left to do a movie. I went sophomore year but junior and senior year I've been home-schooled. But in the year and a half that I did go, it was sort of like High School Musical. The peer pressure is such a big part of school. You get it from all sides and you have to figure out what you want to do.

SN: Did you ever have another career ambition besides show business?
Corbin: I used to want to be a doctor, a pediatrician. But acting is my true passion, and I realized I couldn't do both. I'm hoping to go to college for psychology. I'm considering NYU and Columbia in New York because if I were there, I'd have the chance to do Broadway. Out here in Los Angeles, it's USC, UCLA, Stanford. I've got the applications out.

SN: Will you do a second season of your TV series Flight 29 Down?
Corbin: Yes! We're going back to Hawaii.

High School Musical premieres January 20 at 8 p.m. and repeats January 21, 22, 25, and February 2, 13.