The Start of Something New: Ten Years of High School Musical

Ten years is a long time.  A decade.  The difference between being ten and twenty, between twenty and thirty.  Heck, most people can’t even make it to the Tenth Day of Christmas when singing the old Christmas carol.  It takes a while to get to ten.

It’s been ten years since I first watched High School Musical, and last night I watched the 10th Anniversary special (along with the movie) on Disney Channel.  It was a rollercoaster (not unlike the one in “What Time Is It?” from High School Musical 2).

I think the first time I watched HSM I was by myself.  Nobody knew it was going to be such a huge hit, but I had gotten excited about it as soon as I had seen the promo with the big, Broadway lettering spelling out the title.

I was nine years old when I first watched HSM on January 20th, 2006.  I, too, had been in a musical before: Tom Sawyer the Musical (Yes, it exists) in the third grade.  I was in the chorus because I just couldn’t bring myself to sing alone in an audition.  Still, I had seen my brother perform in two musicals, and I wanted to get in on the fun.

The year HSM premiered, though, I was in the fourth grade and had around that time auditioned to be in The Pirates of Penzance at my grade school.  All the younger kids had to be policemen, and the ones who sang the best got to be on the stage instead of the floor in front of the stage.  The only role for a younger kid (3rd through 5th grade) was the Sergeant, the chief of police.

I had decided at this point that I wanted to audition for the “stage police”; I thought I could do it, and it was one step down from the Sergeant.  No big deal.  But what I didn’t know was that when you auditioned for the stage police, you were also auditioning for the role of the Sergeant.

One day, I walked from the bus stop to my house and in through my front door.

“How was school?” my mom asked.

I looked at her, bewildered.  “I’m the Sergeant.”

And thus began my lifelong love for musical theater.

Looking back, the first performance of The Pirates of Penzance came just months after the premiere of High School Musical.  It’s curious how these events coincided; I got to watch my new heroes audition for a musical, just like I had auditioned for mine.  If only I could have had some of their outfits…

This musical connection drew me right into the world of HSM.  Troy was the dreamy jock who would never in a million years audition for one of my school shows, and I pretended I was Gabriella while singing “When There Was You and Me” in my bedroom mirror.  I was known as the smart kid at school, too, and I treasured the fact that I could “be both” the smart kid and a theater kid, like Gabriella.

I remember when High School Musical first came out, everyone was talking about it at school, but not in the way that I expected it.  I was gushing about it, of course.  I mean, how could people not love the best Disney Channel Original Movie ever created?  But I remember a lot of girls acting like they were too grown up for Disney Channel and High School Musical.  I distinctly remember someone asking me with a nasty look, “You like High School Musical?”  I replied, “Yeah…?”  like it was a no-brainer.  A lot of girls acted like they were too cool for HSM, but I knew that they all secretly liked it.  I’m sure all of them today would be able to sing all the words to “Breaking Free.”

But in fourth grade, they had missed the point of the movie.  It wasn’t about being cool and dancing and singing about togetherness.  It was about knowing that you want to do something, that you enjoy doing something, and then having the courage to do it.  So often in life we cut ourselves off from what we really want to do, and for a myriad of reasons: because our friends would judge us, because it isn’t practical, because it would change how people thought of us.  But High School Musical said, “Forget that.  Do what you love.  Your real friends will be your biggest supporters, even if they’re a little confused at first.”

I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my whole life.  When almost all of the kids my age had stopped performing in school musicals because it “wasn’t cool” anymore, I still did it.  Because I liked doing it.  When people ask me, “Oh… what are you going to do with that?” when I tell them that I’m a creative writing major, I have to focus on the fact that I’m pursuing what I love to do.  Other people’s expectations are not important when you’re deciding your own path.

So not only was I filled with memories while watching the movie, but the whole reunion aspect was so deeply moving.  Following all of the HSM cast on social media and watching the reunion special filled me with so much joy because, like I said in relation to Girl/Boy Meets World, the cast wants to remember and enjoy the memories as much as the fans do.  Though I was sad Zac Efron couldn’t be there in person (*cries single tear*), seeing the other cast members reunite and laugh about old stories and audition tapes was just so lovely.  There’s a video that Lucas Grabeel took of Monique Coleman giving Corbin Bleu his East High class ring back from the final movie (He had lost his and was devastated), and seeing Corbin well up with tears made me want to cry for the rest of eternity.

They have all become so successful at what they do.  Zac is an incredibly popular actor, Vanessa and Corbin have both been on Broadway, Ashley and Lucas have enjoyed success on both sides of the television screen, and Monique has done some majorly awesome charity work.  It’s absolutely crazy to think that I, along with all of the fans of HSM have been rooting for these people for ten years now.  I’m so proud of everything they’ve done, and I can tell that they’re truly grateful for everything.

And the fact that they aired the reunion on Disney Channel was so important.  I can imagine some younger kids, about my age when I first watched it, seeing it for the first time, as well.  Laughing at the old phones and 2000s fashions, but also seeing for the first time the beauty of the story that captured all of our hearts.  With the next generation, it’s the start of something new.

I owe High School Musical a lot.  I’ve enjoyed many a sleepover with friends watching all three of the movies and danced/sang along to all three soundtracks a thousand times over.  I grew up with this movie, and I never really grew out of it.  Seriously, put “Bet On It” on, and I will transform into someone you have never seen before in your life.

In short, I will always love High School Musical.  I will be watching that movie in my rocking chair when I am eighty-three years old.  I won’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I will remember all the moves to “We’re All in This Together.”

I can’t wait for the 20-year reunion.  Once a wildcat, always a wildcat.

WHAT TEAM?!

(Hint: WILDCATS!)

Do you have a favorite memory with High School Musical?  What about another movie from your childhood?  Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!!

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2 thoughts on “The Start of Something New: Ten Years of High School Musical

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