High School Musical 3's director, choreographer and executive producer, Kenny Ortega, won the Emmy award for outstanding choreography for the original version of the movie, which debuted on television in 2006. He was subsequently presented with an Alma Award earlier this year for Special Achievement in Directing for High School Musical 2, which also went straight to TV.
Even with these feathers in his cap, he's particularly excited about his latest venture.
"I've always wanted to direct a musical for the big screen," he said. "High School Musical 3features bigger musical numbers with more difficult choreography and more dancers, more elaborate sets with more complicated lighting and sound, and more detailed and fabulous costumes."
The High School Musical powerhouse franchise began with a simple observation. While "movie musicals" were making a comeback with the likes of Moulin Rouge, Rent and Chicago, producer Bill Borden saw that there were no family-oriented musicals he could watch with his son. And so the phenomenon was born.
The original High School Musical premiered on the Disney Channel on January 20, 2006 to an audience of 7.7 million viewers, making it the channel's most successful made-for-television movie at the time. The story of two unlikely thespians (played by Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron) who audition for the school musical and are called back for the lead roles, infuriating the two usual stars (played by Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel), quickly became a teen craze that demanded a sequel.
High School Musical 2 broke cable television records with the 18.6 million viewers who tuned in on September 7, 2007, to watch the summer-themed movie, which revolved around a talent show at Tisdale's character Sharpay's country club, where the main characters all find summer jobs. The award-winning movies were complemented by two multi-platinum soundtracks, a concert tour, an ice show, and now a big-screen feature.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year shows the Wildcats facing the typical trials of senior year -- the uncertainty of high school relationships lasting beyond graduation, moving away from best friends, anxiety about the future, and, of course, the prom.
The film centers on a basketball championship, the star couple Troy and Gabriella deciding the future of their relationship, and four characters -- Sharpay, Ryan, Kelsi and Troy -- competing for a scholarship to Julliard.
The leads -- whose stars have quickly risen -- reprise their roles as Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu), Taylor McKessie (Monique Coleman), and Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin).
High School Musical 3 contains 10 original songs in the soundtrack, which is already available in stores. The choreography for the musical numbers has expanded to include ballroom dance, with a waltzing prom scene and cha-cha danced on the school theater stage. The choreography also grew from a total of 10 principal actors, 12 principal dancers and 190 extras, to scenes including 15 principal actors, 18 principal dancers, 60 featured dancers, and up to 2,000 extras.
According to producer Bill Borden, Mr. Ortega and his team of Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story "have created a new standard in the dance musical industry that everyone else will try to reach."
"I think their talent and their love of what they're doing shows up on all the dances and the actors love them."
It's a sure bet that the largely teen fan base will love them as well.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year opens today.
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