'High School Musical' hits the red carpet for DVD release

Thirteen-year-old Meagan Henry of Norcross is not alone in her love for "High School Musical." The television movie became an instant hit when it premiered on the Disney Channel in January.

"I know a lot of people who like it," Meagan said.

In Gwinnett and across the country, 8- to 14-year-olds have fallen for the movie, which tells the story of Zack and Gabriella. The two high school students decide to try out for the school musical, even though singing isn't their thing.

Meagan saw the movie on television and loved it immediately. "I really like that it's high school and there's a lot of younger kids in it. It's a good story for teens," she said.

Her favorite song is "Stick to the Status Quo," a number that the students in the movie sing in the school cafeteria. Henry downloaded the soundtrack on iTunes and listens to the songs on her iPod, occasionally singing along.

The movie's popular soundtrack has hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The release of the "High School Movie" DVD this Tuesday was so highly anticipated, Buena Vista Home Entertainment hosted a red carpet premiere for it in Hollywood.

The company invited the Gwinnett Daily Post and lots of other newspapers, magazines and television stations to come to Hollywood for the festivities on May 13.

The day began with a series of round table interviews with the young stars of "High School Musical." That evening, before the movie was shown at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the stars walked down the red carpet, stopping to talk to representatives from media outlets from around the country.

Musical stars

The movie has introduced a new generation to musicals, said Vanessa Anne Hudgens, who plays Gabriella. Many of the kids who are watching "High School Musical" haven't seen Broadway classics like "West Side Story" and "Grease," she said.

Her co-star Zac Efron, who plays Troy, agrees. "We brought the musical back, except in a modern relevant way, and we used rock and pop and some cool basketball dance numbers. I think it all goes back to the music. It's a musical, and musicals are fantastic."

Kids love both the music and the story, Hudgens said. "The guys can relate to it because of the basketball and the girls can really fall for it because of the romance and everything," Hudgens said. "I think it appeals to pretty much everyone."

The cast of relatively unknown actors is another part of the movie's success, said Monique Coleman, who plays Gabriella's friend Taylor.

"To see a bunch of kids get up there and do something unexpected, I think encourages other children to feel like that's something they could do as well. Like they could be any of us, because we didn't know we would be here, either," Coleman said.

Stars Efron and Hudgens are no longer anonymous young actors. They haven't quite gotten used to being greeted by enthusiastic fans, though.

"We were hanging out one time and a group of kids behind us just broke out into song, just like we would in the movie. They started singing and they knew all the words and the dance moves and everything," Efron said.

The entire cast worked long hours with choreographers to help them learn the complex moves in "High School Musical." Being in the movie helped Ashley Tisdale, who describes herself as uncoordinated, learn to dance. Her character, Sharpay, is the school's wicked dancing queen, who will stop at nothing to be sure she and her brother get the starring roles in the spring show.

Since the movie premiered, Tisdale has even gotten an offer to be on "Dancing with the Stars." She turned it down, though.

"I think I would be voted off the first time. But it's very funny to see that they thought I was a good dancer," said Tisdale, who also appears as Maddie on the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."

Soon, "High School Musical" fans may be dancing in their own versions of the production. The script and songs from the movie are available to school and community theater groups.

In fact, some students are already in rehearsals. The stars of "High School Musical" have visited a Compton high school where students were preparing to put on the stage adaptation of the movie.

The students were really excited when the "High School Musical" stars arrived. "We got there and these two little girls were just screaming," Hudgens said.

At the school, the "High School Musical" began reading some lines, but were soon shown up by the students. "They knew the roles and stuff, and they knew the lines better than we did," Efron said.

The story

•In "High School Musical," Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) discover a love for singing during their winter break. Back at school, when they plan to audition for the spring musical, everyone tries to stop them. Troy's teammates want him to concentrate on the upcoming basketball championships, while Gabriella's friends want her to devote all her time to the academic team. Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her brother, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), try to keep the pair from auditioning in order to get the lead roles for themselves.

High School Musical Facts

•A sequel, with all the stars from the original, is scheduled to be released in 2007.

•More than 2 million copies of the movie's soundtrack have been sold.

•The soundtrack, which was released in January, hit No. 1 on the Billboard top 200 chart twice in March.

•The sheet music for the songs in the film is available for voice, piano and guitar.

•Plans are being made for a Broadway stage adaptation of the movie.

•High school theater groups can register with Disney to perform their own live versions of the show.