Why High School Musical’s Anniversary Is A Bigger Deal Than You Think
As a theatre blog, this topic being covered might come as a surprise to you. However, we felt it was fitting given the movie’s 10th anniversary to not only look back on what High School Musical brought us when it first premiered 10 years ago, but to examine how much High School Musical has influenced our lives since then. It may shock you to realize this movie might have been, the Start of Something New. Today, Luner on Theatre examines why High School Musical’s 10th anniversary is a bigger deal than you think it is!
Ten years ago today on January 20th, 2006, Disney Channel premiered High School Musical for the first time to audiences on television across the nation. While Disney knew they were taking a risk launching a musical original Disney Channel movie a decade ago, what they didn’t know was they were commencing a wave of musicality awareness launching musicals and theatre into a spotlight that has only grown brighter in the ten years since it’s premiere.
As for High School Musical, here are the facts; High School Musical is the most successful Disney Channel original movie ever produced. It is also the only one to ever have a sequel. Disney quickly realized they had a hit on their hands ordering High School Musical 2 released on Disney Channel in 2007 and then High School Musical 3: Senior Year making its way to the big screen as a feature film in 2008. The original High School Musical cast album was the best-selling album in the United States in 2006. The show went onto other lives in the form of a concert tour, stage production, ice tour, book series and video game. And while all this success is beyond what Disney ever imagined, High School Musical went one step further;
It placed itself as the foundation for a new and young generation of artists to become involved with theatre while returning musical theatre to a spotlight it had long since fallen out of into pop culture with audiences nationwide.
Sure, you’re probably thinking; “Really? Isn’t that a little dramatic Luner on Theatre?” Even though we do love our dramatics, this is by no means dramatic when we’re talking about High School Musical’s impact on the theatre world beginning a decade ago. The popularity in musicals, theatre and musical themes on television continue to grow to this day. One could easily say High School Musical inspired the Glee series FOX began presenting in 2009, just one year after the HSM series came to a close. Glee, following close in example as it told the story of a high school glee club, worked original music, Top 40 music and theatre music into musical numbers that appeared throughout the course of an episode. Glee went on to run for six seasons producing over 725 musical numbers during it’s time on television.
High School Musical, combining musical theatre and television, could also be accredited to the return of LIVE musicals on NBC which have now become an annual tradition. Musicals broadcast to television though is not a new concept. When Broadway musicals and their songs topped the charts in the late 1950’s and early 1960s, musicals were often filmed for television or played out live on the screen for audiences at home to enjoy. This tradition has long since gone away but recently returned as the rise in popularity of musicals has grown. NBC began with The Sound of Music in 2013 following up in recent years with Peter Pan in 2014 and The Wiz in 2015. The partnership of produces musicals live on television will continue for the forseeable future with hope of some productions even heading back to Broadway.
One could even argue the branding of “Broadway” and its booming business, especially amongst young teenagers who are still in high school, to the High School Musical movement. The access this television musical offered to them has not only left them wanting more but sent them into the seats of countless theaters not only in New York on Broadway but in venues around the country. Many Broadway shows have placed themselves into the hands of young theater-goers giving them exclusives, behind the scenes looks and more. How many musical commercials do you see on television now-a-days? Another point that could easily be argued began because of High School Musical. Countless organizations and business now use catchy tunes and often full production numbers to advertise products to audiences on television.
But above all, High School Musical inspired a generation to be true to itself even if that meant taking a path that wasn’t necessarily the most popular. It inspired young artists to consider the theatre, whether that be performing or working beyond the scenes, as an escape to the world and social pressures placed against them almost daily at home, in school and unfortunately, online. It inspired kids to perform to not only escape the world and it’s standards placed against us but to use the theatre to relate to all of that and move beyond it. Break Free, if you will. It managed to capture the essence of high school so perfectly from its inception to its end. Yes, even I will admit that final graduation scene left me in tears in the theater. It gave our generation stars to look up to and role models to follow. Most people 35 and under have seen High School Musical and many if not most of us, have performed in a production of it whether it be at school or in a local community theatre. It could easily be credited as the inspiration to countless performers today already in the business or pursuing a degree in the theatre at this very moment.
Disney didn’t know they were the Start Of Something New when they decided to not Stick To The Status Quo anymore and produce this Disney Channel original musical movie. (I’ll stop because I’m actually being serious about this ending) What they did know was they wanted to provide entertainment, they wanted to set an example, they wanted to bring music into young adults lives and they wanted to send a message that only you can decide who you are and what path you take. Disney didn’t realize they were kicking off a musical decade that has since exploded returning musicality and theatre into almost our every day lives. But what they did realize and taught us at the same time is that we can accomplish everything we want and more if We’re All In This Together.