REVIEW: New ‘HSM’ series is even more ‘Fabulous’

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By Isabella DeRose

Not a reboot. Not a sequel. It’s the start of something new. As Disney + overwhelmed teenagers desperate to relive their childhood, the bonus series of “High School Musical the Musical the Series” equally took the world by storm. Prior to its release, many were reluctant to give the show a chance, fearful that without the iconic Troy and Gabriella duo, the show was doomed from the start. However, the series completely exceeded everyone’s expectations, as it breathed a breath of fresh air into the classic rather than trying to copy its original genius. 

Showrunner Tim Federle was adamant about creating an authentic series that truly captured this generation’s high school experience. Rather than creating something that would ultimately blend with the High School Musical hype, Ferdele developed something that stood by itself while simultaneously capturing the orginal’s essence. That being said, Ferdele picked a cast of actual teenagers, or close to teenagers, rather than 25 year-olds parading as juniors in High School. With the cast ages’ ranging from 15 to 21, the first step to embodying the teenage experience was complete. In addition, Ferdele did not use the original soundtrack as a crutch, for the show features 10 original songs, with two being written by the show’s main characters, Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo, who play Ricky and Nini. 

While the location of the show remains at the iconic East High School, the plot centers around the students’ fall production of “High School Musical,” as well as the drama that ensues because of it. With a documentary-style approach best known from “The Office,” the viewer gets to watch the character’s internal thoughts and feelings unfold. Between unexpected castings and brewing love interests, the show definitely provides Sharpay level dramatics for the audience to enjoy.  

The season premiere commences with the fall out of Ricky and Nini’s one-year relationship, after Ricky fails to return the words “I love you” and suggests that they go on a break for the summer while Nini is away at theater camp. A devastated Nini puts her heartbreak aside and finally grows into her skin as a performer and a person while at camp. That being said, she comes back for junior year a completely new girl, with a new guy, EJ, on her arm. Constantly hitting himself for ruining his chances with Nini, Ricky vows that he will do whatever it takes to win her back, even if it means overcoming his hatred for musicals and joining the school’s production of “High School Musical.” To everyone’s surprise, Ricky literally becomes the Troy to Nini’s Gabriella, and his plan to get back in her good graces takes full effect.

The major factor that separates the series from good to great among the countless iconic Disney originals is the chemistry of the cast. Throughout the nine months they spent together in Utah while filming, the cast dedicated a majority of their free time to bonding. Between arcade trips and filming silly music videos on set, the relationships they built with each other is clear on and off the screen. Although their real life bonds are invisible on screen, the underlying relationships between the characters ultimately create a realistic experience for the viewer. In addition, it is easier for the audience to establish a connection with the characters and truly feel everything they are experiencing.

Before even being released to the public, the show was renewed for another season and production has already begun. In fact, the cast recently revealed that their spring musical production would stray from the “High School Musical” brand, as they would be producing “Beauty and the Beast.” People are already speculating the drama that will ensue in the next season, and we are sure that the cast will not fail to deliver anything less than ‘Fabulous!’