The sights & sounds of High School Musical
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil () - August 2, 2006 - 12:00am
I love watching musicals and I thought that with the success of Chicago and Moulin Rouge, I will be getting my fill of songs and dances on the big screen that are not Disney animated. Alas, it was not to be. Phantom of the Opera, Looks Like Love, Rent and the still-to-be- shown The Producers came in rapid succession. Unfortunately though, they all performed below expectations, box-office wise. With that development, I knew it would take some more years before we get big-budget musicals on the big screen.

But not on the small screen. Producers might be reluctant to shell out millions for a big screen musical but not for the lesser costing television. And that is just what Disney did. These past two months has seen the presence of a soundtrack entitled High School Musical in the US charts. It was the No.1 seller for several weeks and is still in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top 200 albums. It features the music from the popular cable movie of the same title that might have just done the fantastic job of resurrecting the movie musical.

Not much is new about High School Musical. As anybody who loves musicals will tell you, it is purely formulaic. It tells the story of Troy and Gabriella who fall in love during one Christmas break, thanks to their love for singing. Come school opening, they find out that they go to the same high school where Troy is a basketball player and Gabriella is the budding genius. So should they now step out of their comfort zones to be together? Worse yet, will they also be accepted as singers if they get the much-coveted roles of the leads in the upcoming musical presentation?

Instantly recognizable here are elements from old Andy Hardy pictures about high school kids performing in a show. Think Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Come to think of it, Cliff Richard did those in the ‘60s, too. The part about vacation lovers finding themselves in the same school echoes John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Why is there even a hint of Applause? This happens when the supposedly big musical stars in school begin to feel threatened by Troy and Gabriella. Even the music of the show is pure Disney pop fluff very similar to the early recordings of Britney Spears and Hilary Duff.

But I also see lots of reasons why the movie is a huge success. The young and very engaging members of the cast perform well. It also helps that the stars, Zac Efrom, Vanessa Anne Hutchinson and Ashley Tisdale come from a popular Disney show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Then there is director Kenny Ortega who has worked as choreographer for Madonna and Cher and created the dances for the memorable Dirty Dancing. He was also responsible for the ill-fated Robby Rosa solo flick Salsa but it is clear that he has regained his footing in the charming High School Musical.

Of course, it is also a fact that more kids are dreaming of singing stardom these days, not to mention parents who imagine big bucks whenever their children open their mouths. There are also more opportunities than ever before for them to show off what they can do, not only in school programs or the church choir but also in talent contests and failing those, through karaoke joints. I am not at all surprised that all of them would be interested in High School Musical and that they would want to sing and dance along with the show.

Obviously aware of this, the producers of the soundtrack have included a karaoke CD in every copy for kids to sing the songs with. Not only that. Disney has also made High School Musical available for school versions. Check out the Disney website for this. You can bet that we will soon be watching assorted versions of High School Musical if the rights are available for the Philippines. As for the show, I do not know when or if it will air at the local cable channel. But if not, you can look forward to the release of the – make sure, please – of the non-pirated video soon.

Meanwhile the lucky local girl who gets a first crack at recording a High School Musical song is the lovely Nikki Gil. She joins fellow Asian singers Vince Chong and Alicia Pan in a rendition of Breaking Free. This is a bonus track in the Asian edition of the soundtrack.

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