REVIEW: ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,’ Episode 1 – “The Auditions”

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Calling all Wildcats, the moment we have been waiting for has finally arrived. With the launch of Disney+ comes the series premiere of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. While it certainly has a lengthy and interesting title, I was quite worried when this show was announced earlier this year, especially with how meta the premise of the show was going to be. Having watched the original High School Musical trilogy when they were released, I didn’t understand the need for either a reboot or a remake. Thankfully, this distances itself from both categories to create something unique.

The series follows Ms. Jenn (Kate Reinders), the newly instated drama teacher at East High, which is the same high school where the original High School Musical movie was filmed. Ms. Jenn decides to put on a production of High School Musical since the school has never attempted to do a production on it.  She hires local sophomore (Frankie A. Rodriguez) to work on the choreography.

Meanwhile, the rest of the student body is returning to school after summer vacation. Ricky (Joshua Bassett) is hoping to make amends with his girlfriend Nini (Olivia Rodrigo), but she is already in a relationship with EJ (Matt Cornett), a kid she met while at music camp. After Ms. Jenn makes the announcement that she will be putting on a production of High School Musical, Ricky plans to try out in hopes of making some sort of connection with Nini.

As I mentioned above, the premise of the show is quite meta since East High is a real school. The students in the show attend that high school in a fictional world while putting on a production about their school in yet another fictional world. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was expecting the show to rely on a lot of meta-commentary of the original film. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the show incorporates some mockumentary techniques, including the single-camera monologues.

It’s not fully explained as to why this is done, but I can imagine that the school is just looking to film the process of putting on this musical. It could also be that since the school itself has never put on a production of the film, they would want to capture this monumental event. Nevertheless, the show still finds ways to be very much like the original films.

There’s still the couple who come together through the musical itself, the witty best friends, and the stakes of putting oneself out of their comfort zone. The meta-commentary is balanced well throughout the episode, serving as callbacks to the films while also making each character distinct from their movie counterparts in personality, motives, and relationships.

I have to congratulate this show on the level of diversity of their cast. While the original films did break ground with a diverse cast, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series far exceeded my expectations. For instance, the character of Carlos in the show is played by a person of color and has a prominent role within the series as the musical’s choreographer. It’s important for me to see more shows implementing a diverse cast but not just for the sake of saying that their show has a diverse cast. The diverse cast feels authentic, which gives me hope that this will carry through to future episodes.

Overall, I really enjoyed watching the first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. It brought a sense of nostalgia while also bringing its own flair. Any doubts I had about how the show would play out were completely gone by the end of the episode. The big reveal at the end of the episode will surely make for an interesting series. Nothing’s been confirmed, but a part of me wants one of the original cast members to come on the show for a cameo appearance.

The first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is available to watch now on Disney+.

'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,' Episode 1 - "The Auditions"
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

It brought a sense of nostalgia while also bringing its own flair. Any doubts I had about how the show would play out were completely gone by the end of the episode.