High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: The Review


(Photo: Disney+)

Miguel Alves, Editor

DISCLAIMER: Ahead are potential spoilers for the first season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Despite my friends’ best wishes, I caved and decided to watch High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney+, the Disney-exclusive streaming service that launched this past November. From the get-go, my expectations were low — maybe not Glee-season-six low, but pretty low. Nevertheless I was excited, mainly because I figured I’d have a new cringey TV show to latch onto and have as a secret guilty pleasure, something I knew was objectively bad but found enjoyment in judging — cough cough Glee cough cough. And in this respect, I have to firmly say that the first season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series completely failed to meet my expectations.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is a show (done in mockumentary-style format) about a high school production of High School Musical, and despite having all of the ingredients for a terrible show, it’s actually really good. Having a tough guy-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-in-the-musical-but-ends-up-loving-it character in the form of Ricky was very reminiscent of Finn Hudson back when Glee was actually good. I also found myself genuinely interested in the characters and their love stories, especially the one between Big Red and Ashlyn; the dorky, feel-good pair was a refreshing break from the love parallelogram of drama that was Ricky, Nini, E.J., and Gina. Though, I’ve got to be honest — I’m a sucker for some classic will-they-won’t-they, so I loved Ricky and Nini’s development.

The casting sought fresh, young faces and introduced a new bunch of talent for us to adore; leads Olivia Rodrigo (Nini) and Joshua Bassett (Ricky) made an incredible pair with serious chemistry and a knack for songwriting. We also had the pleasure of meeting other talented actors and actresses, such as Matt Cornett (E.J.), Julia Lester (Ashlyn), and Dara Reneé (Kourtney), and it would be a crime to not bring up Larry Sapterstein’s (Big Red) hidden tap dancing talent that wasn’t revealed until the season finale!

It seems that the creators decided to cast on the younger side, with most of the teenagers being played by those between the ages of 19 and 21, but the real shock factor lies in the aforementioned Rodrigo as well as Sofia Wylie (Gina). With Rodrigo being 16 and Wylie being 15 during shooting of the first season, these two powerhouses led a rare charge of teenagers playing teenagers on TV, while keeping up with their older costars.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Kate Reinders (Miss Jenn) and Mark St. Cyr (Mr. Mazzara), who gave very believable performances of two passionate teachers who are also undoubtedly human.

Going on, the show manages to pay lots of homage to its source material, the original 2006 High School Musical (HSMfilm, while creating something new and modern; a perfect demonstration of this is how they had one original song in nearly every episode, along with various HSM covers.

Speaking of the original songs, I have to talk about the original songs. If there was one thing I definitely did not expect from HSMTMTS, is the actual bangers that they’ve put out thus far. There are a few cringeworthy ones — I’m not particularly a fan of “A Billion Sorrys,” although in fairness, I think that’s the point — but ultimately, the show has brought with it some great songs. Probably the most popular out of all of them is “All I Want”, performed by Olivia Rodrigo in the fourth episode of this season, and for good reason; it’s a great song, as well as a relatable one. It spread widely due to its popularity on the social media app TikTok, capturing the hearts of people who may not have even liked the original HSM film. And the widespread fame is justified!

However, I feel the need to shine a light on what, to me, was truly the best original song of the first season: “Wondering,” performed by Julia Lester and Olivia Rodrigo. God, I get goosebumps every time I hear it, and I love that they gave it to Ashlyn, a character who, up until then, seemed to fall easily into the background. Lester’s voice is absolutely gorgeous; her performance in the second episode was part of the reason why she quickly became one of my favorites, along with Saperstein’s Big Red. I could easily go on and on about those two, so I’ll cut it short — even if you haven’t seen HSMTMTS, even if you have no desire to watch HSMTMTS, listen to “Wondering.” Seriously. Every viewer I’ve talked to adores the song, and it’s still criminally unappreciated for what it is.

Overall, the first season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series deserves lots of praise. I genuinely recommend this to anyone who enjoys feel-good shows. I’ve got to be honest — if you’re looking for a deep and thought-provoking show that tests societal boundaries, this probably isn’t it. As showrunner Tim Federle said in an interview with Hollywood Life, “…High School Musical, no matter how far we push the stories to, at the end of the day, make[s] people feel good,” rather than being another “big doom and gloom show.” But if you’re looking for a little bit of drama, a little bit of romance, a respectable amount of representation, and a few musical numbers, you should give season one a shot.

While I’m very excited for the second season, my main concern is that it won’t be able to meet the expectations set by the first; part of this may be because, for this upcoming season, my expectations will no longer be laughably low like before. Nevertheless, I’m ready to see what the writers decide to do with these characters now that they know them better, and I can rest assured that, no matter what happens, this will still be a show that makes me feel good.