Maintaining its long-standing history of creating entertaining and memorable films, Disney Channel created yet another popular hit with the High School Musical franchise. First debuting in 2006 with High School Musical, the original movie was met with an overwhelming response. In fact, it was the most watched Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) ever made.
Banking on the success of the first movie, Disney release additional sequels including High School Musical 2 and the first ever theatrically released Disney Channel Original Movie, High School Musical 3: Senior Year. With a total viewership of over 225 million fans worldwide, High School Musical became a global phenomenon and one of Disney’s most successful series. Its popularity continues with numerous spin-off series, foreign adaptations, and concert and stage tours. The franchise is showing no signs of stopping either as a reported High School Musical 4 is currently in the works.
However, when you strip away the show-stopping musical numbers and saccharine pubescent storylines, you will find the darker truth of the stars and their franchise. Plagued with tabloid scandals, hidden production secrets, and on-set troubles, the revelations behind the High School Musical franchise might shock fans new and old.
Here are 17 Dark Secrets Behind High School Musical.
Following in the footsteps of adolescent musicals like Hairspray and Bye Bye Birdie, High School Musical revolves around the lives of teenagers. Although similar in content, its true originals came from one of the most popular musicals around: Grease. In this proposed Grease 3, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Even the other members of *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Travolta and Newton-John were approached to be involved with the project.
While the script did receive several re-writes and updates, the project itself was shelved until 2004. Also, permission would have to be given for the original owner of the rights to Grease. Instead of having to go through so much red tape, producers decided to create it into a move outside of the Grease universe.
Known for playing Taylor McKessie in the High School Musical franchise, actress Monique Coleman was close to not being a part of the film.
Beginning her acting career at a very young age, she secured her first few roles from 1995 – 1997. Putting her career on hold to complete high school and graduate from DePaul University, she began acting again around 2003 with a role in Strong Medicine. However, her next parts were simply one episode appearances and did not lead to any long-term commitments.
Frustrated by her career’s development, she was on the verge of quitting acting when she auditioned for and received a callback for High School Musical. She was even hesitant to accept the role after she won it. Thanks to this part, Coleman’s career took off and led to a more prosperous acting career.
The casting for High School Musical was set to showcase a diverse cast of high schoolers in the 2000s. Not only were the students varied in their “high school” archetypes and personalities but their backgrounds varied as well. Interestingly, the original casting for the film called for the characters of Sharpay and Ryan Evans to be black. However, the casting process ran into issues trying to find the perfect pair to take on those roles.
According to Buzzfeed, actor Corbin Bleu shared that casting “found someone to play Sharpay, but they could not find a black equivalent [for Ryan] and then I think they found Ashley so they decided to cast Sharpay and Ryan as Caucasian". Things worked out, in the end, because we cannot imagine anyone else playing the Evans twins.
Although the audience expects the original stars to do their own singing, many musical productions prefer quality singing over authenticity.
Zac Efron, though a fairly good singer, did not have the range to adequately sing the songs for the first High School Musical movie. In fact, the majority of his singing was done by Drew Seeley, another actor that tested for the role of Troy.
Seeley is the one who sang "Get'cha Head in the Game" and the reprise of "What I've Been Looking For." Efron only sings the first four lines of "Start of Something New," the first sentence of "Breaking Free," and during the scene on the balcony.” Going forward, Efron did his own singing in the other films.
When working with an ensemble cast like High School Musical, producers often look for stars that will work well together onscreen. Regardless of whether the role is for a villain or a hero archetype, the cast as a whole must present a specific chemistry that appeals to viewers.
For the duo of the Evans twins, producers looked for the perfect brother and sister that could play off of one another perfectly. Though they succeeded in casting great stars for the roles, the truth behind the Evans siblings was that they did not care for each other during filming. Actress Ashley Tisdale told Billboard that, "We hated each other, not kidding… I think we just didn't know each other. I was definitely a lot like Sharpay, and Lucas was like 'Who is this person?'"
However, by the end of filming, the pair grew to become close friends.
Many fans of the High School Musical franchise have had unanswered questions about Ryan Evan’s character. With his flamboyant style, impeccable dance moves, and several flirtatious moments with other male characters, some fans concluded that the character was gay. However, this belief has never been outright proven.
However, Lucas Grabeel fell in love with the character and tried to advocate for the development of Ryan's sexuality. Grabeel advocated for Ryan to finally come out in High School Musical 3: Senior Year to bring some closure to the speculation. However, with Disney would not support having an openly gay character at the time, and the idea was never pursued. In the end, viewers are left to make their own conclusions about the character.
Lead actor Zac Efron’s star power skyrocketed after starring in the franchise and he soon became a household name. However, when you become such a famous star, your actions are scrutinized more closely by tabloids everywhere. As such, the story of Efron’s fight with a homeless man in 2014 made headlines everywhere.
However, Efron explained to ET Online that "A homeless guy, or vagrant, tapped on the driver’s-side window. Before I knew it, he [the friend] was out of the car, and they started fighting. I saw that [the homeless man] was carrying some sort of a knife, or shank, and I got out of the car to disarm him. At some point, he dropped the knife, and I got hit pretty hard in the face — and almost instantly the police were there to break up the fight." Wow.
Many child actors face numerous unscrupulous agents and directors who look to take advantage of their naivety. During these times, young stars turn to their parents for both guidance and reassurance for their decisions. However, in a few cases, their trusted parents are the ones that take advantage of their innocence as well.
In the case of actor Chris Warren Jr. (who played playing Zeke Baylor), his parents began spending his earnings from acting jobs without his knowledge. The money had been kept in a trust since 2001 but his parents accessed it early to use at their leisure. He sued his parents in 2013 and the judge ruled in favor of Warren. In the end, his parents were forced to pay him $337,186 to replace the money they had taken from him.
Known for playing the role of Donny Dion in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Justin Martin’s acting career almost came to a halt with a 2015 incident with police in Massachusetts. According to Eonline, Martin fled the scene of a shooting with a gun in his hand. Boston police stated that he “allegedly pointed the gun at officers and a second man opened fire. Officers fired at Martin, who was not hit, before getting him to the ground, after which they recovered a .22-caliber handgun and took him into custody.”
Martin was found guilty of “Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Possession of Ammunition and Carrying a Loaded Firearm, and two counts of Assault by means of a Dangerous Weapon.” He served 18 months in jail and one year of probation afterward.
The pressures of being a newly famous actor can undoubtedly take its toll on young stars. After being launched into the spotlight after the High School Musical series, Zac Efron found new roles coming back-to-back. Although he flourished in his newfound fame with roles in Hairspray, 17 Again, and Charlie St. Cloud, the pressures of being an actor finally wore him down.
In early 2013, Efron entered rehab for five months seeking help for his cocaine and alcohol abuse. Though initially entering rehab in the early part of that year, he had to return after relapsing during the filming of the comedy Neighbors. After his time in rehab, Efron has been dedicated to living a sober life since June 2013 and continues to flourish in his acting career with roles in Baywatch and The Greatest Showman.
From the outside, Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland and High School Musical 3: Senior Year actor Matt Prokop seemed to have the perfect relationship. Meeting on the set of their Disney Channel movie Geek Charming, the two stars began dating around 2010. By 2014, their breakup reported in the tabloids everywhere. Although fans were heartbroken to hear the news, they were even more shocked to hear the details of their alleged 5-year abusive relationship.
Clevver reported that Hyland filed a restraining order against Prokop due to his abuse. She claimed that he “choked her, pushed her and even threatened her life” for the last four years of their relationship. Prokop was instructed to stay at least 100 yards from Hyland and her pets at all times.
Becoming a part of the cast of High School Musical turned out to be a complicated process. Potential cast members had to endure hours of auditions that included singing, dancing, and acting. Even future members of the East High basketball team had to endure basketball tryouts as well. Considering the challenges faced just to become a member of the ensemble, you would think the final cast would not have to suffer any more trials onset.
Sadly, Monique Coleman was faced with another test of her abilities when she was required to swim in High School Musical 2. At the time, Coleman not only didn’t know how to swim but also had a fear of water. However, the cast and crew of the movie considered her fears and made accommodations for her. Instead of jumping in alone, she was partnered with her dancing partner Bleu for the movie’s scene.
Although many of the musical numbers in the High School Musical franchise have become very popular, none have quite matched the infamous status of “Bet On It”. Showcased as the eighth song in High School Musical 2, fans were treated to Troy (played by Zac Efron) expressing his frustrations and anger on a golf course.
Heavy with overdramatic dance moves and singing, this scene has become the fodder for tons of internet memes and parodies. However, fans may not realize that the completion of the scene took up almost 1/5 of the production time. In all, production took six days to complete out of the five-week schedule. Filming had to take place in between other scenes so Efron’s performance had to be broken down into smaller, filmable moments.
Despite all of the meme-worthy moments, the scene is truly one of the most memorable of the movie franchise.
One of the most significant challenges in casting for a high school themed production has been finding the perfect cast for the roles. Considering over 600 people auditioned initially for High School Musical, casting directors should have been overflowing with talented young actors and actresses. Although many productions aim to include stars that are within the same age range as the characters, actors in their early twenties are usually chosen.
Regarding the cast of High School Musical, the age ranges for the first movie varies by almost eight years. Corbin Bleu was 16 years old. Although Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron, at 17 and 18 respectively, fit the high school range, the other actors were in their early 20s. In fact, Coleman was the oldest member of the main cast at 25 years old.
Over the course of the first two movies in the franchise, viewers have enjoyed watching the stories of both the high school lives and their summer vacation antics of the characters. When the announcement came for the third installment of the franchise, producers had specific plans for the setting. In early 2007, Disney announced that the upcoming sequel would be Haunted High School Musical. Not only would the theme be based around Halloween, but it would premiere on the big screen in 2008.
However, by the end of the year, plans changed drastically for the sequel. The theme for the film would, instead, focus on the senior year of many of the stars. This change, of course, would include the highlights of one’s senior year: Prom and graduation. The film still premiered in theaters everywhere and took in $252.9 million at the box office.
The production of a musical takes a considerably longer amount of time to create given all of the elements involved. From creating choreography to writing original songs and scores, producers had their hands full bringing this story to life. So much so that they gave little thought to the actual title of the film.
The name “High School Musical” was given to the script to serve as a placeholder for the film. Given its on the nose yet dull title, writers planned to rework the name to reflect the heart of the story better. Interestingly enough, that rework never happened. By the time filming for the entire movie was complete, no one has any ideas for the movie title. Producers had no choice but to stick with the mundane title, in the end.
Vanessa Hudgens, famous for playing the role of Gabriella, found herself the victim of two scandalous nude photo incidents during her High School Musical career. In 2007, nude photos of Hudgens were leaked online having been taken personally. She apologized for the photos and indicated that they had been taken in private, leading some to speculate they were for her then-boyfriend and costar Zac Efron. Though some believed that the incident would lead to her dismissal from the series, Disney decided she would remain a part of the cast.
In a second photo leak occurring after the release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, she involved a lawyer since the pictures were taken while she was underage. With a more severe charge attached to the crime, websites that displayed the photos were forced to remove them to avoid federal charges.
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