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January 20

January 20, 2006 – High School Musical Premieres on Disney Channel

“This could be the start of something new.”

At 8 p.m., January 20, 2006, the television movie, High School Musical, premiered on the Disney Channel. It became the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever produced, and was followed with a television sequel (High School Musical 2) and a feature film, (High School Musical 3: Senior Year), as well as best-selling albums and various international spinoffs. The movie was directed by Kenny Ortega, with screenplay by Peter Barsocchini. The cast includes Zac Efron as Troy Bolton, Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez, Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans, Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth, and Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie.

With a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the story centers on basketball star and team captain Troy Bolton and shy genius Gabriella Montez, who meet at a New Year’s Party after being pushed to sing karaoke together. Through the song they sing, they begin to develop an attraction to each other, finally exchanging phone numbers before going their separate ways.

Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) reluctantly singing together at the party.

Fortuitously, Gabriella’s mother is transferred to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Troy lives and attends East High School. The two are excited to see each other again, and Troy beings to show Gabriella around the school, while explaining that his singing at the party was not something he did often, nor do his friends know about his musical abilities. The two pause in front of the sign-up sheet for the winter musical, where they run into Sharpay Evans, the Drama Club president. Sharpay has an obvious crush on Troy, and is immediately suspicious of Gabriella, thinking the girl could be a threat to her winning the lead in the musical. With her brother Ryan, they do an Internet search on Gabriella, discovering her past academic achievements, and revealing them to Taylor McKessie, captain of the Scholastic Decathlon Team, who immediately tries to recruit a reluctant Gabriella.

After seeing Gabriella again, and remembering the fun he had singing with her at the party, Troy has trouble concentrating at basketball practice, and decides to check out the auditions. He runs into Gabriella there, but both are two shy to step forward to audition, and by the time they get the courage to do so, the drama teacher Mrs. Darbus immediately turns them down, telling them they are too late, auditions are over. But soon after, she overhears them singing with the composer of the winter musical, and reconsiders, giving them a call-back audition.

Troy and Gabriella singing together once again.

Troy’s call-back for the musical starts a chain of events at the school, with students revealing their secret hobbies, from a basketball player’s love of baking, to a scholastic high-achiever’s hobby of “poppin’ and lockin’.” Troy’s best friend, Chad Danforth, becomes alarmed as people, including Troy, disrupt the status quo, and Chad worries that Troy’s lack of focus will cost them the upcoming championship game. Chad teams up with Taylor, who has been unsuccessful in getting Gabriella to join the Scholastic Decathlon Team, to get Troy and Gabriella to focus on upcoming competitions and forget about the call-back auditions. They scheme to trick Troy into saying that Gabriella isn’t important to him, while Gabriella watches on a wi-fi link Taylor has set up. Crushed, Gabriella decides to join the Scholastic Decathlon Team after all, refusing to audition with or even talk to Troy.

The Scholastic Decathlon Team tricking Gabriella with the live feed from the basketball team.

Chad and Taylor, overwhelmed with guilt for ruining their relationship, finally confess their scheme; Troy goes to Gabriella’s house and they make up, and the pair once again continues to rehearse for call-backs, this time with support from their friends. Sharpay, infuriated at this outcome, convinces Ms. Darbus to reschedule the call-backs to coincide with the basketball game and the Scholastic Decathlon, leaving Troy and Gabriella unable to audition. But the basketball team and the Decathlon team decide to work together on a plan that would allow the pair to audition without missing their competitions.

The premiere broadcast had 7.7 million viewers, and has been seen by more than 225 million viewers globally. It launched the careers of Efron and Hudgens, and several of the cast members released solo albums. The movie also spawned a successful touring concert, from November 29, 2006, to January 28, 2007, with most of the cast reprising their roles, except for Efron, who was replaced by Drew Seeley (whose tenor voice had been used to blend with Efron’s baritone in the film’s soundtrack). The film’s popularity has no doubt ushered in a new age of Disney Channel programming, and defined a new generation of Disney fans.

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