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The little 'Musical' that could

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  • The little 'Musical' that could

    August 12, 2007

    TEENAGE SHOWBIZ
    The little 'Musical' that could

    The 'High School Musical ' gang is back in a sequel that has some big shoes to fill.

    By Lynn Smith
    Los Angeles Times

    WHEN Kenny Ortega was a high school student in Redwood City, Calif., his counselor told him he had to choose between his two extracurricular passions: track and drama. He couldn't do both. It was policy.

    Now some 40 years later, that dream-squashing counselor has been paid back -- big time. "High School Musical" -- the Disney TV movie Ortega directed and choreographed urging kids to be true to their dreams -- has been seen by more than 160 million people around the world. The little $4.2-million project has morphed into a $100-million-plus franchise of chart-topping CDs and DVDs, concert tours, live stage performances, even an ice show.

    A sequel, the logically named "High School Musical 2," will premiere Friday on the Disney Channel. A deal is nearly finalized for a trilogy-completing feature film, aimed for release next year.
    Ortega said he had always been drawn to the MGM-style, break-into-song musicals such as "An American in Paris" and "On the Town." But by the time he had obtained the training to direct such films, no one was making them, he said.

    In 1980, he met his idol, Gene Kelly, working on the film "Xanadu." The film was a turning point for Ortega when Kelly showed him how to design choreography for a camera instead of a theater audience, fitting the dancing into a drastically shortened production time.

    Kelly also told him a story that would become relevant later. "He got a call from one of the studios saying, 'We've got this guy named Sinatra. We want to put him in the movies, but he says he has two left feet.' The first thing Gene said was, 'Ask him if he can play any sports. Because there's a connection. They belong in the same body.' "

    On a baseball diamond in Beverly Hills, "Gene goes out with a couple of gloves and a bat and a baseball and shows Frank Sinatra the connection," Ortega said.

    That theme gets reprised in a highlight of "HSM2" -- a number called "I Don't Dance," an unusual mix of swing and hip-hop in which athletes and dancers are pitted against each other on a baseball diamond, each side showing off its dual talents to drive home the point that they aren't mutually exclusive.

    For his part, Ortega credits the success of the franchise to his young cast's "spirit and soulfulness and generosity."

    Almost everyone involved in the original, including himself, did it to gain experience, he said. "I don't think any of us expected it would shine this light on us. And look what's happened to Zac alone." After "High School Musical," Efron, 19, starred in "Hairspray," released last month, and he appears on the cover of the Aug. 10 Rolling Stone magazine. Paramount recently announced he will star in a film version of the musical "Footloose," scheduled for release in 2009. Ortega was chosen to direct. Now, he says, his goal is to help bring back the musical form to film.

    "The biggest success for me is that it's turned on a whole new generation of kids to musicals, and for me that's the one I'm proudest of," Ortega said. "It has this greater massive impact and this delicate, poignant simple one-on-one impact. And that's the miracle of this little project."
    Last edited by ALIASd; 11-12-2007, 05:14 PM.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  • #2
    Re: The little 'Musical' that could

    TELEVISION REVIEW
    The magic of 'Musical'

    The Disney Channel's airing of the sequel this week is must-watch TV on the teens 'n' 'tweens scene.

    By Mary McNamara
    Los Angeles Times
    August 12, 2007

    Singing
    click to enlarge


    Scenes from 'High School Musical 2'

    IT'S been a big summer for tweens and teens. First the final "Harry Potter" book and now the long-awaited television premiere of "High School Musical 2."

    It is impossible to overstate the importance of this event in so many young lives. The Disney Channel's 2006 movie "High School Musical" remains a bona-fide phenomenon, a success so huge that the human brain cannot quite fathom it. Not since the ladies who matinee discovered Michael Crawford in "Phantom of the Opera" has there been such a rabidly devoted fan base. Recently, this critic mentioned to a group of 5- to 15-year-olds that she happened to have a review copy of the film and was thinking of watching it with a group of kids to get their reaction . . . not that I actually got that far; somewhere after "copy of," my words were drowned in a cacophony of shrieks and whoops and cartwheels.

    Not surprisingly, the television movie has already spawned a record-breaking soundtrack, much merchandising, a traveling stage musical (Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, was spotted navigating her kids through the packed Chicago opening) and, come September, a "High School Musical on Ice" show. With the tween and teen markets threatening to overthrow the boomers, it just may be that "High School Musical" is bigger than the Beatles. And the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. So you do the math.

    What makes the saga more than just another Disney machine marketing coup is that "High School Musical" is a sweet, wholesome story with swinging good tunes and a truly aspirational message embraced by parents as well as young viewers. Not only is East High a drug-free, graffiti-free Shangri-La of public education with dance-number-friendly pillars where the metal detectors should be, the cast members are as multihued as they are ebullient -- the main love story involves the Caucasian Troy and Latina Gabriella, but the Romeo-Juliet obstacle is jock versus brains rather than Shark versus Jets. There is pettiness, sure, and snarkiness, but the kids express real teenage emotion without damaging property or even uttering a "sucks." Yet the treacle factor remains amazingly low.

    "High School Musical 2" is a similar mix of pep and conflict as Troy, Gabriella and crew go on summer vacation with, naturally, nary a parent in sight. As with the "Harry Potter" series, "High School Musical" is about loyalty and self-discovery, with song and soft-shoe instead of wands and the scheming drama queen Sharpay instead of Voldemort. Both are fantasy worlds with one foot in reality, and both are reassuring in their huge popularity. "Life is hard," is the message, "but it's easier with friends."

    And while most kids can't levitate a broomstick, almost anyone can help put on a show.
    Last edited by ALIASd; 11-12-2007, 05:15 PM.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

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