When “High School Musical” first debuted as a film, it was a significant and surprising success. Since then, multiple movies have come out, as have spin-off series and even parodies. However, its pretenders have rarely bettered the original’s unique blend of teen drama and high-spirited musical numbers. And the series, which is now entering its third season, is likely to retain that hit-making potential.
Why is “High School Musical” Such a Success?
The formula for “High School Musical” was straightforward. Take the kind of teen drama and comedy style popular and bring in well-arranged and exciting pop song covers in a musical format. The stars of the movie were all great performers, which helped significantly. The simple plot matters, but the joy of these films lies not in the story but the endlessly fascinating arrangements and choreography.
The series seems to tap into this same fun. As produced by Tim Federle (actor, author, playwright, and cocktail mixer extraordinaire), it features the same kind of somewhat campy and dramatic plotlines mixed with a liberal dose of energetic pop song performances. As a result, it’s not unusual to see the whole cast break into a sweat, dancing and singing right in the middle of class.
Is there much realism to this approach? Not really, but that’s not the point. The series uses the same combination of good-time fun and teen-friendly musical methods to bridge the gap between the old-school musicals their parents and grandparents loved. So what’s the significant difference between “Mary Poppins,” “Oklahoma,” and “High School Musical”? On the surface, just about everything.
However, a deeper dive into this film school reveals that they operate on the same basic framework. A simple story, somewhat dramatic moments, and engaging musical outbursts. Is it any less accurate to see Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke burst into song with animated penguins than it is to see the whole school twerk to the same beat? It’s honestly about the same level of believability.
The last few years have been rough: the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone and made life so much harder. So many people have died, and those who didn’t may end up with lingering and painful symptoms for years. In hard times like these, it’s not shocking to see escapist fun become popular again. Who wants to stare into the bleak face of reality when they can dance with their high school to Lady Gaga?
The rest of the “High School Musical: The Series” team seem to understand this basic fact. They offer fun, harmless, and engaging escapist entertainment that provides a little bit of hope in tough times. No wonder the series was renewed amid increased viewership. And no wonder that so many people are now rediscovering the original films years later. We all deserve to escape from our life once in a while, and if this series helps achieve that goal for you, it’s done its purpose with grace and style.