High School Musical: The Musical - The Series (TV Series 2019– )
|Genre||Comedy, Drama, Musical|
|Content Rating||TV-PG (TV-PG)|
|Awards||1 win & 2 nominations.|
|Company||Chorus Boy, Salty Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures|
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is an American mockumentary musical drama streaming television series created for Disney+ by Tim Federle, inspired by the High School Musical film series. The series is produced by Chorus Boy and Salty Pictures in association with Disney Channel, with Oliver Goldstick serving as showrunner for the first four episodes. He was succeeded by Federle as showrunner for the remainder of the first season.
Set at a fictionalized version of East High School, the school at which the original movie was filmed, the series follows a group of teenage theater enthusiasts who participate in a staging of High School Musical: The Musical as their school production. The series stars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester, Dara Reneé, Frankie Rodriguez, Mark St. Cyr and Kate Reinders.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premiered on Disney Channel, ABC and Freeform as a preview simulcast on November 8, 2019, ahead of its launch on Disney+ on November 12. The first season consists of 10 episodes. In October 2019, before the series debuted, Disney+ renewed the series for a second season.
The series has received a positive response, with critical reviews highlighting the performances of the cast, particularly those of Bassett and Rodrigo. It won a GLAAD Media Award in 2020 for Outstanding Kids & Family Programming.
At a fictionalized version of East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the High School Musical movies were filmed, a former background cast member, Miss Jenn, begins work as the new drama teacher. The teacher decides to stage a performance of High School Musical: The Musical for her first winter theater production to celebrate the school's affiliation with the original film. The students cast in the musical learn to navigate their interpersonal relationships and form bonds with each other, to overcome the challenges they face in their lives at school and home.
In the second season, the theater students of East High stage a production of Beauty and the Beast for the spring musical.
Cast and characters
- Olivia Rodrigo as Nini Salazar-Roberts, a musical theater enthusiast, who is cast as Gabriella Montez.
- Joshua Bassett as Ricky Bowen, a guitarist and skateboarder who previously dated Nini, who is cast as Troy Bolton despite his initial lack of interest in the musical.
- Matt Cornett as E. J. Caswell, a jock theater enthusiast Nini previously met at theater camp, who is cast as Chad Danforth and the understudy for Troy.
- Sofia Wylie as Gina Porter, a transfer student with theater ambitions, who is cast as Taylor McKessie and the understudy for Gabriella.
- Larry Saperstein as Big Red, Ricky's best friend, who fills in as stage manager for the production whenever Natalie is unavailable, despite his lack of knowledge about theater. He is later shown to have hidden talents in tap dancing and knowledge of electronics.
- Julia Lester as Ashlyn Caswell, E. J.'s cousin and an aspiring songwriter, who is cast as Ms. Darbus.
- Dara Reneé as Kourtney, Nini's best friend and a self-proclaimed feminist, who works in the costuming department of the musical.
- Frankie Rodriguez as Carlos Rodriguez, the choreographer of the production, who works alongside Miss Jenn.
- Mark St. Cyr as Mr. Benjamin Mazzara, East High's STEM teacher, who is against the school's focus on the Arts.
- Kate Reinders as Miss Jenn, East High's new drama teacher, who appeared in the original High School Musical film as a background dancer and directs the school's production.
- Joe Serafini as Seb Matthew-Smith, a student who is cast in the role of Sharpay Evans. He begins a relationship with Carlos.
- Alexis Nelis as Natalie Bagley, the stage manager for the production.
- Nicole Sullivan and Michelle Noh as Carol and Dana, Nini's mothers.
- Jeanne Sakata as Malou, Nini's grandmother.
- Alex Quijano as Mike Bowen, Ricky's father, whose wife is estranged and currently living in Chicago.
- Valente Rodriguez as Principal Gutierrez.
- Beth Lacke as Lynne Bowen, Mike's wife and Ricky's mother, who returns to announce she and Mike are getting divorced.
- Kaycee Stroh as Kaycee, a member of the school board. Stroh played Martha Cox in the original film.
- Lucas Grabeel as himself, appearing in a dream sequence. Grabeel played Ryan Evans in the original film.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||November 8, 2019||January 10, 2020|
|Specials||2||December 14, 2019||December 11, 2020|
Season 1 (2019–20)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||1||"The Auditions"||Tamra Davis||Tim Federle||November 8, 2019|
|Ricky returns to school for the new year to discover that his former girlfriend, Nini, is now dating E.J., whom she met at a theater camp over the summer. On her first day as the new drama teacher at East High, Miss Jenn announces that the school will be staging a production of High School Musical: The Musical. Mr. Mazzara warns Miss Jenn of the need to be professional while at work. Nini is inspired to audition for the musical after typically participating as a chorus member; and Ricky decides to audition in an attempt to impress Nini and rekindle their relationship. Nini meets transfer student Gina, who intimidates her with her dance abilities. Nini boldly auditions for the role of Gabriella by singing "Start of Something New", while Ricky auditions for Troy by singing the song that Nini previously wrote for him as a declaration of her love; "I Think I Kinda, You Know". Upset, Nini confronts Ricky, before the cast list is posted, revealing Ricky and Nini in the lead roles of Troy and Gabriella respectively.|
|2||2||"The Read-Through"||Tamra Davis||Oliver Goldstick||November 15, 2019|
|Miss Jenn starts rehearsals for the musical with a cast read-through of the script. Nini tries to avoid Ricky, as she is unimpressed that he auditioned to get closer to her, rather than for the benefit of the production. Nini criticizes Ricky for not taking the production seriously, which leads him to contemplate quitting. However, Gina convinces Ricky to continue participating in the hope that his romantic attempts cause Nini to quit, allowing her to assume the role of Gabriella. This backfires when Nini is impressed by Ricky's newfound efforts to practise the dance routines. E.J. is jealous of Ricky being cast as Troy, and after suspecting that Ricky has been messaging Nini behind his back, he plans to steal Nini's phone and check her messages. Gina steals Nini's phone on E.J.'s behalf, and offers an alliance; to help him remove Ricky from the musical so that he can play Troy opposite Nini. Meanwhile, Miss Jenn acquires a prop from the original film, Gabriella's phone, to be displayed throughout the show's run.|
|3||3||"The Wonderstudies"||Tamra Davis||Zach Dodes||November 22, 2019|
|Now in possession of Nini's phone, E.J. listens to a heartfelt voicemail that Ricky leaves for her and deletes it; before returning the phone to lost and found out of guilt. Nini arrives late to rehearsals after Gina reschedules the session, aware Nini would not receive the update while missing her phone. Nini feels intimidated when Gina choreographs a complicated dance routine, and steals some of her belongings in retaliation, believing Gina stole her phone. E.J. convinces Nini to return the items, and writes a song for her, "A Billion Sorrys", when he realizes he must confess his own actions. After E.J. hints that he listened to the voicemail, Ricky inadvertently reveals to Nini that E.J. stole her phone. Meanwhile, Mr. Mazzara confronts Miss Jenn about the prop phone she acquired; finding a receipt for her purchase of the item online after she claimed it was a gift from one of the cast members of the original film. Mr. Mazzara rebukes Miss Jenn when he discovers she was merely an extra in the film and suggests her position at the school was awarded based on the false claim that she had a larger role. He pressures her to inform her drama students.|
|4||4||"Blocking"||Chad Lowe||Margee Magee||November 29, 2019|
|Nini confronts E.J. about stealing her phone; he expresses his belief that she still has feelings for Ricky. The pair argue before a blocking rehearsal, which results in the pair singing a strained rendition of "What I've Been Looking For" with E.J. stepping in for his understudy role. Miss Jenn disapproves of the cast not taking rehearsals seriously and implores for the students to resolve their personal issues. E.J. tries to apologize, but Nini blocks his phone number, deciding to break up with him. Ricky's mother returns home to reveal that she and his father are separating, and that she will be moving to Chicago. Ricky is discernibly hurt by the news and plans to stay at Big Red's for the night, before relocating to Nini's house after speaking with her mother, Carol. Nini comforts Ricky, and the two share a romantic moment, before she discovers that he has left the house. Nini laments the loss of her relationship and resurfacing feelings for Ricky, by writing the song "All I Want". Meanwhile, Gina devises a new plan to claim the lead role, by convincing E.J. to become her date to the upcoming homecoming dance.|
|5||5||"Homecoming"||Joanna Kerns||Tim Federle||December 6, 2019|
|Nini decides to miss the homecoming dance and spend the night with Kourtney and Miss Jenn to prevent her overthinking her recent breakup. Miss Jenn attempts to reignite Nini's focus on the production and encourages her to have more confidence in herself at a karaoke lounge. Miss Jenn meets Ricky's father Mike during the night and a romantic connection is instigated between the two. Carlos assists Seb in rehearsing the dance routine for "Bop to the Top" and the pair arrange to attend the upcoming dance together. Carlos is initially disheartened when Seb doesn't arrive, but the pair later reconcile when he merely arrives late. Gina takes E.J. as her date to the dance in the hope that the unwanted drama would force Nini to quit her role, and is disheartened when the plan doesn't work out. Ricky scolds Gina for taking advantage of E.J., and after apologizing, he drives her home and the pair bond. Miss Jenn checks her phone to find missed calls and messages from Principal Gutierrez, who arranges an urgent meeting as a result of her neglecting her chaperone duties for the dance.|
|6||6||"What Team?"||Kimberly McCullough & Joanna Kerns||Oliver Goldstick||December 13, 2019|
|Miss Jenn is indefinitely suspended from her position after Principal Gutierrez discovers she lied about her teaching experience and credential during the application process. Carlos is forced to act as stand-in for Miss Jenn's directing duties and delivers the news to the cast when the pressure becomes unendurable. The students discuss the positive impact that Miss Jenn has had on their schooling lives and decide to stand up for her. They band together to stage and rehearse a performance of the song "Truth, Justice and Songs in Our Key" at the school board meeting to convince the panel to continue employing Miss Jenn. The presentation proves successful and Miss Jenn's position is reinstated. At the meeting, Miss Jenn discovers that Mike is Ricky's father. Meanwhile, Nini becomes jealous of Ricky's newfound friendship with Gina when she witnesses him sing an acoustic version of "When There Was Me and You" to her. E.J. decides to clear his conscience by confessing his secrets and lies to Nini.|
|7||7||"Thanksgiving"||Kimberly McCullough||Ann Kim||December 20, 2019|
|Over the holiday break for Thanksgiving, Ashlyn arranges a party for the theater students at her house. Ricky calls his mother to find that she is in a new relationship with a different man, and Gina empathizes with Ricky based on the struggles of her own family. Nini makes an effort to connect with Gina at the party before Gina's mother calls to tell her that she has been redeployed for work and they will be moving again. Big Red notices Ashlyn when he learns she is the co-captain of the robotics team, and the pair bond during the party. Ashlyn encourages Nini to write a song about herself rather than her relationships, leading her to compose "Out of the Old", and consider applying for a performing arts school based in Denver. E.J. discovers that he has lost a significant amount of his social media following after he continues confessing to his immoral behavior. Meanwhile, Miss Jenn and Mr. Mazzara unexpectedly meet at school during the night to work on their respective extracurricular projects. The pair assist each other in their attempts, and they spend the rest of the night together at the school. They fall asleep watching a movie while an outlet sparks in the workshop.|
|8||8||"The Tech Rehearsal"||Joanna Kerns||Natalia Castells-Esquivel||December 27, 2019|
|The cast discover that the East High theater was damaged by a fire over the holiday, leaving them unable to undertake rehearsals. Carlos arranges for the production to be hosted at the abandoned El Rey Theater downtown. Miss Jenn leads a technical rehearsal, but is hesitant to work at the theater due to an unpleasant memory regarding the original film premiere, where she discovered that her line in the movie had been cut. E.J. gains possession of Miss Jenn's personal casting notes and is dismayed to learn that she regarded him as unable to connect with the emotional material of the play. Nini and Ricky privately rehearse a scene together and rediscover their romantic connection while reminiscing about their friendship. Miss Jenn discovers Kourtney's singing ability during the rehearsal, before Kourtney makes a call to the performing arts school Nini was interested in. After falling unconscious in a dazed state, Miss Jenn dreams of performing the song "Role of a Lifetime" with Lucas Grabeel, which later inspires her to redirect the production back to East High.|
|9||9||"Opening Night"||Kabir Akhtar||Oliver Goldstick||January 3, 2020|
|On the opening night of the production, E.J. finds himself stepping into the role of Troy for act two. Eight hours earlier, the theater students prepare for their first performance. Miss Jenn secures the East High gymnasium as the performance venue, and asks Mr. Mazzara to help Big Red with the technical equipment. Ricky writes a song for Nini, "Just for a Moment", while Nini prepares a gift for Ricky; but the pair are hesitant to share these with each other. Miss Jenn asks Kourtney to play Taylor in the place of Gina, who has already moved away. Kourtney is relieved when Gina unexpectedly arrives mid-show to resume her role for the dance break of "Stick to the Status Quo". Nini is excited to learn that Kourtney invited the dean of the performing arts school to view the performance, but finds herself daunted by the pressure. Ricky is pleased to have his parents attend the show, but is unnerved when Lynne's new partner arrives during his solo of "Get'cha Head in the Game". Feeling disheartened, Ricky implores E.J. to finish the performance in his place.|
|10||10||"Act Two"||Kabir Akhtar||Tim Federle||January 10, 2020|
|E.J. begins to play the role of Troy for act two, while Ricky confronts his mother about bringing her new partner, Todd, to the show. Gina encourages Ricky to at least watch the rest of the production, but once inside, he witnesses E.J. step aside from his role during "Breaking Free" to allow Nini and Ricky to finish the performance together. Gina acknowledges and thanks E.J. for purchasing the plane ticket which allowed her to return. Mr. Mazzara is shocked to witness Big Red's technical skills and invites him to join the robotics club. Nini is upset when the dean of the performing arts school leaves mid-performance. After the show, Ricky comforts Nini, before he declares his love for her; admitting that he was initially afraid to express it. The pair kiss and share their gifts with each other. Ashlyn receives a bouquet of flowers from Big Red, and the pair later share a kiss. Principal Gutierrez confronts Miss Jenn and Mr. Mazzara, now aware that they caused the school fire. Nini is surprised to see the dean return after the show. She congratulates Nini on the performance and offers her a place at the performing arts school, beginning in a month's time.|
|Title||Directed by||Original release date|
|"High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: The Special"||Clayton Cogswell||December 14, 2019|
|This special features archive behind-the-scenes footage from the production of the original High School Musical film. Film director Kenny Ortega and cast member Corbin Bleu talk about their experience on the film and meet the cast of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Lucas Grabeel also announces his guest appearance on the series. Series creator Tim Federle discusses the song "Just For a Moment", and the cast performs at the D23 Expo in Anaheim.|
|"High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special"||Tim Federle||December 11, 2020|
|A holiday special in which the cast performs Christmas music.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|11||1||"New Year's Eve"||TBA||Tim Federle||TBA|
|13||3||"Valentine's Day"||TBA||Zach Dodes||TBA|
On November 9, 2017, it was announced that Disney was developing a television series adaptation of their High School Musical film series created by Peter Barsocchini. The series was expected to premiere on Disney's then-unnamed upcoming streaming service. The company had planned to adapt the franchise for television and approached creator Tim Federle to develop an idea for a series. Ferderle pitched the documentary-style series in January 2018 and went on to write drafts of a script together with Disney Channel.
On May 30, 2018, it was announced that Federle would serve as a writer and executive producer for the series. On September 6, Disney officially gave the production a series order for a first season consisting of ten episodes. Oliver Goldstick was expected to serve as showrunner and an additional executive producer while Julie Ashton would oversee the casting process. Alongside this announcement, it was also revealed that the show would be of the mockumentary genre and a list of character names and descriptions was released. By May 2019, Goldstick had departed the series over "creative differences", having served as showrunner for the first four episodes. The series is produced in association with Disney Channel.
In October 2019, ahead of the release of the first season, Disney+ renewed the series for a second season. Federle stated that the second season's plot would not revolve around a production of High School Musical 2; it was revealed in February 2020 that the featured production would be Beauty and the Beast. The second season will consist of twelve episodes.
Federle drew inspiration for the mockumentary style of the series from other films and programs such as Waiting for Guffman and The Office. He was inspired to create a series which depicted music as a central theme, while also drawing on his experience as a former Broadway performer.
The series is inclusive of LGBTQ representation, with two gay characters featured: Carlos and Seb. In an interview with The Advocate, Frankie Rodriguez credited Federle for writing his character Carlos as gay without drawing on the tropes of a typical queer character. The character Seb plays the role of Sharpay in the musical, an example of non-traditional gender casting. The series begins the exploration of a same-sex relationship when Carlos asks Seb to the school dance in the episode "Homecoming". The series also depicts same-sex parenting through Nini's two mothers Carol and Dana. In addition to this representation, the series also includes themes such as divorce.
Federle expressed the importance of casting real teenagers in main roles to add authenticity to the high school-based series. On October 17, 2018, it was announced that Joshua Bassett had been cast in a leading role. The rest of the cast was announced on February 15, 2019, including Sofia Wylie as Gina, Kate Reinders as Miss Jenn, and Olivia Rodrigo as Nini. Federle confirmed in November 2019 that an unnamed cast member from the original film would make a cameo appearance through a fantasy sequence. After being listed as a featured artist on the soundtrack, Lucas Grabeel, who played Ryan Evans, was confirmed to be making an appearance on the series. Grabeel appears in the episode "The Tech Rehearsal" as a fictionalized version of himself, performing in a song alongside Reinders. Kaycee Stroh, who played Martha Cox, also makes a cameo appearance in the episode "What Team?"
In December 2019, it was reported that Joe Serafini, who plays Seb Matthew-Smith, would be promoted to the main cast for the second season. Further additions to the recurring cast were revealed in early 2020: Roman Banks as Howie; Olivia Rose Keegan as Lily; and Derek Hough as Zack, Miss Jenn's ex-boyfriend.
Production on the first season began on February 15, 2019, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and concluded on June 30. Production on the second season commenced in February 2020, but was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming had resumed by November 2020.
The mockumentary style of the series is achieved through the single-camera setup, with handheld cameras used to create shaky footage and zooming. In addition, talking heads are utilized to allow characters to express their inner thoughts while talking to the camera. These scenes represent the "present day" in the story, while flashbacks to Nini and Ricky's past relationship are filmed more traditionally.
The first season contains nine original songs, with one new piece of music featured in each of the first nine episodes. The majority of songs are performed live by the actors. Some actors accompanied their own performances on instruments such as the guitar. Rodrigo wrote an original song for the series, "All I Want", and co-wrote "Just for a Moment" with Bassett and music producer Dan Book. Federle stated that his original pitch included the idea of developing original songs for the series. Steve Vincent, who worked on the original films, served as the musical supervisor for the series and sourced several composers to write new music. He also received submissions from songwriters based in Los Angeles. The soundtrack for the first season, featuring new songs and renditions of songs from the original film, was released on January 10, 2020, by Walt Disney Records. In the lead-up to the release, selected tracks were made available weekly to correlate with the episodes being released.
An album accompanying the holiday special, High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special: The Soundtrack, was released on November 20, 2020, which includes Christmas music as well as selected songs as a preview of the second season. As well as both new songs and new versions of songs from the original film, the second season will feature songs from the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast, written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Bassett and Rodrigo both wrote original songs for the second season.
The first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was telecast on Disney Channel, ABC and Freeform on November 8, 2019, ahead of its launch on the streaming service Disney+ on November 12, 2019, in 4K HDR. Episodes were released weekly rather than all at once. The first-season finale was released on January 10, 2020.
Prior to the release of the second season, a 45-minute holiday special entitled High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special, featuring the cast performing Christmas music, was released on December 11, 2020. The special featured previews of songs and scenes from the second season.
The first poster and trailer of the program were released on August 23, 2019, at the Disney+ panel at D23 Expo 2019. The first episode was also screened alongside a panel discussion hosted by High School Musical cast member Corbin Bleu.
A short form behind-the-scenes series entitled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: Extra Credit was released weekly on YouTube and added to Disney+ on January 17, 2020. The series features cast interviews, rehearsal footage and other clips from the production of the series. An updated version of the first season entitled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: The Sing–Along, branded as a sing-along with on-screen lyrics to the featured songs, was also released on January 17.
The preview simulcast of the first episode on November 8, 2019, was viewed by 2.03 million on ABC, in addition to 474,000 on Disney Channel and 293,000 during its Freeform airing. The broadcast received 2.8 million viewers in total.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 75% approval rating for the first season with an average rating of 7.38/10 based on 32 ratings. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though fans may find what they've been looking for in its nostalgic stylings, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series follows a little too closely in its predecessors steps to truly be the start of something new." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 64 out of 100 based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Vinnie Mancuso of Collider described the series as "endearingly tongue-in-cheek". Kelly Lawler expressed that the series is a "love letter" to high school theater productions in a review for USA Today. Kendra Cleary of Hypable stated that the series captures the energy of the original movie while introducing a relatable set of characters that are not as stereotypical as Troy and Gabriella. However, Caroline Framke of Variety suggested that some elements of the program are too similar to the original movie's "two-dimensional" approach. Insider's Libby Torres said the series lacked the "infectious energy" of the original film and found the premise jarring. Mancuso objected to the mockumentary style of the series, noting that the format distracts from other humor in the episodes. /Film's Ethan Anderton noted the technique as inorganic and unnecessary. Conversely, Cleary listed the talking heads as one of her favourite aspect of the series. Daniel Toy of Tom's Guide indicated how the techniques help to avoid unfamiliarity with characters. In his Laughing Place blog, Alex Reif said the series was more aimed at adults than the original movies. Joel Keller of Decider suggested that viewing of the series does not require an understanding of the original franchise.
Shannon Miller of The A.V. Club praised the cast's talent, in particular Rodrigo and Bassett for their musical ability and "handling of dramatic material". Writing for Decider, Kayla Cobb stated that the two leads have significant romantic chemistry. Megan Peters of Comicbook.com praised Rodrigo for her portrayal of Nini's "cautious" personality, and Keller described her as "especially magnetic". Anderton also applauded the cast and suggested that the series does not feature the same "exaggerated acting style" as the source material. The show's choreography was commended, as well as Wylie for her dance capability. Toy described Rodriguez's comedic timing as Carlos as "impeccable". Anderton, Peters and Framke likened Kate Reinders's performance as the "overzealous" Miss Jenn to Kristin Chenoweth.
The series has been likened to Glee for its themes, as well as its combination of music and drama. Framke described the series as a "sweet and very silly version of Glee", and Peters noted similarities through its "quick cuts and quips". However, Miller stated that High School Musical uses music more as a literal than abstract element in the storyline. Cleary noted that the series is not a musical in itself, and that the songs appear organically, depicted through auditions and rehearsals.
Reviewing the music, Mancuso and Toy expressed interest in the program continuing to provide new songs in addition to the original movie's soundtrack. Cleary praised the "vibrant and nostalgic" score. Cobb commended the vocal abilities of the main cast and described Rodrigo as "an especially pronounced talent" with a sweet and sincere voice.
|2020||GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Kids & Family Programming||High School Musical: The Musical: The Series||Won|
|Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Male TV Star||Joshua Bassett||Nominated|
|2021||Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Male TV Star||Joshua Bassett||Pending|
|Favorite Female TV Star||Sofia Wylie||Pending|
|Favorite Kids' TV Show||High School Musical: The Musical: The Series||Pending|