8 Reasons to Watch High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Season 1)
Updated: Jul 15
With the launch of Disney Plus in November 2019, the world was given a gift: High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. I was in elementary school when the original High School Musical trilogy aired, so the franchise was a massively influential part of my childhood. I knew all the words to every song, and the first stage musical I was in was a summer camp production of High School Musical. When I casually watched the first few episodes of HSMTMTS, I was blown away with just how good it was. The new show was truly amazing, and I say this from the perspective of an original HSM fan and a retired high school theatre kid. If you haven’t checked it out already, I’ve collected eight reasons to convince you that Season 1 of HSMTMTS is a must-see:
(1) Amazing soundtrack
Each episode of HSMTMTS features original music written for the show and classic songs from the 2006 High School Musical film. The original songs are well-written, excellently performed, and fit seamlessly into the storyline. The featured classic songs are reimagined and restaged in ways that feel simultaneously sentimental and refreshing. My favorite original songs are Wondering, Born to Be Brave, and Just for a Moment. My favorite reimagined classics are When There Was Me And You, Breaking Free, and We’re All In This Together.
(2) GREAT writing
I cannot overstate how good the writing is. The main cast is made up of eight students and two teachers, and each character is thoughtfully developed and essential to the story. As the season progresses, the narrative dives into several complex storylines where nobody knows everything but everyone has their own point of view. It’s clever, and it’s funny too. I also love the way gay representation is woven in without it being a “coming out” story. By the end of the season, I was in love with the characters and looking forward to Season 2.
(3) Ricky Bowen, a teenage boy for this generation
With each episode, I was more and more impressed by the male lead, Ricky Bowen, a skater boy who auditions for East High's production of High School Musical to win back his ex-girlfriend, and ends up getting cast as Troy. Even though the conflict between him and Nini starts because he had trouble expressing his feelings, he consistently shows emotional maturity. He is unfailingly supportive of his dad and his best friend, he shows Nini that he cares without forcing himself on her, he knows how to be vulnerable (there is a time when he is willing to confide in a friend when Nini is not, which felt subversive of gender expectations), and he recognizes when he is angry or behaving badly and checks himself. Ricky’s character sets an impressive example for young men today.
(4) Antagonists you’ll love to love
For the first few episodes, there are two characters that are definitely placed in a more antagonistic role: EJ and Gina. However, the portrayals of both of these characters become more complex as the show progresses. For EJ, viewers are introduced to his good side before he starts doing some shady things. When he behaves badly, his actions are immediately identified as unacceptable, and he comes to terms with that. He takes some steps towards self-improvement, and is met with authentic responses to his attempts to apologize and change his behavior. By the end of the season, he’s still got some work to do, but his journey is definitely on an upward trajectory. As for Gina, viewers have few opportunities to connect with her for the first half of the season. However, as soon as I saw her more vulnerable side, I feel in love with her character. Seeing her sad makes me sad, and seeing her happy makes me happy.
(5) Teachers who’ll warm your heart
There are two teachers in the main cast: Miss Jenn, the new drama teacher at East High, and Mr. Mazzara, the STEM teacher who doesn’t want his robotics club to compete against the drama department for funding. Mr. Mazzara is a little snippy in the beginning, but becomes much more endearing as the show progresses. Miss Jenn is a little wacky, but she has some really great moments where truly shows her heart. She’s passionate about her work and her students, which shows the importance of a great drama teacher. Jenn and Mazzara are hilarious together, and I loved watching them become friends.
(6) How extra it is sometimes
There are several funny, clever lines that show how extra people in the performing arts can be. Some of my favorites are:
“Did I just join a cult?”
“I would take the SATs every week if I never have to do that again.”
“Tornados come and go. Dance is forever.”
“People in the dramatic arts are insane."
(7) Many homages to the original HSM trilogy
There are so many homages, big and small, to the original source material of East High drama shenanigans (maybe someday I’ll do another blog post listing as many as I can find). I noticed many plot parallels, and there are a few cute costume recreations. Plus, the overall message from the original HSM trilogy persists: In high school, you can be more than one thing!
(8) It’s made for theatre kids
I often describe myself as an overgrown theatre kid, because there was a point in time when my life revolved around my high school drama department’s season of shows. Several moments in HSMTMTS spoke directly to my memories from that period, from Miss Jenn’s frustration giving me flashbacks, to the hubbub of opening night evoking a wave of nostalgia. The cast and crew captured what high school theatre is all about, which made me really miss it.
For all of these reasons, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is a love letter to the magic movie that was the soundtrack of many childhoods and to what it means to come of age loving the arts. I highly recommend this show to anyone who loves the High School Musical franchise, musical theatre, or both.
After much anticipation, Season 2 is currently airing on Disney Plus! I’m loving it so far, and stay tuned for my thoughts on the new episodes!