If you are acquainted with any middle school or high school girls, chances are you know what they were doing this particular past Friday night. Yep, you guessed it. High School Musical 2 premiered on the Disney Channel at 8p.m, which featured as the centerpiece of our youth group get together (well, along with a chocolate fondue machine and a charming game of hide and seek in the dark…hehe;)
I initially resisted the charm of the original movie, mostly because I felt like I would be betraying my much cooler, hipper indie roots and classical and jazz snobbery—I mean sophistication—by succumbing to the predictable chord progressions of pop music. However, much like Tracy Turnblad unapologetically belts out in this past summer’s musical smash Hairspray, “you can’t stop the beat!”
And you can’t. I loved every second of HSM2 in all its summery, exuberant, dancing and singing glory, even with the cliché plot contrivances and cheesiness. We also warned the high schoolers that boyfriends like Zac Efron’s Troy Bolton do not exist in reality. Boyfriends do not constantly plan sunset picnics, feed you cake, and skip merrily with you through the sprinklers. It just doesn’t happen.
But regardless of the movie’s flaws, I still found myself enjoying the energy, choreography, the cast’s chemistry and the singing.
It made me realize: the movie musical has not only been officially revived, it’s skipped its way joyfully down high school hallways, theater aisles and iPods with its effervescence.
I think the first hint of the genre’s return was Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Not a true musical—only one or two of the songs were original if I am not mistaken—but the whole campy singing, dancing and acting amid a sumptuous and innovative backdrop. And we ladies all loved hearing Ewan MacGregor’s buttery vocals soar, of course…
Soaring butter? Wow, I need to work on my analogies…
The first true musical movie horse out of the gate in recent times—wow, I think I’ve momentarily inherited my mom’s gift of misuse of idioms—was Chicago. The director and all-star cast magnificently translated this stage production onto the silver screen, which also garnered critical and public acclaim.
Recent forays into movie musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, RENT and The Producers (which I heard was disgraceful) fell short artistically but still momentarily satiated the hunger of most loyal musical theatre fans.
Now with the critical and box office success of Hairspray and the High School Musical phenomenon, it seems that world is once again ready for movie musicals. I honestly think the success of Broadway shows like Wicked as well as Disney’s presence on the Great White Way have made musicals more appealing to younger families with kids, broadening the market. American Idol has also made singing cool again, even if it is recycled karaoke.
I really am hoping that more original musicals get produced… So much of what’s done these days is a mere revival of a stage musical. Not that I don’t love seeing these stage productions translated into film, but it would be awesome if today’s musical theatre composers and filmmakers collaborated to bring something fresh and original… it happens all the time on Broadway, but 99% of the people who live in the rest of America and don’t have the time or money or interest to go to NYC don’t ever get a chance to experience it…
Here is a great link: www.sh-k-boom.com It’s a production company/recording studio that constantly crank out new cast recordings from musical theatre shows and it’s really good stuff.