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`High School Musical' still most popular for Disney

April 17, 2006|Roger Catlin | Hartford Courant

Fans of "High School Musical," the most popular original movie ever on the Disney Channel, can expect a whole lot more.

Plans are underway for a sequel using the same young cast led by Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel.

A stage show with a different cast is being fashioned for a fall start. A touring concert version with other singers also is being considered -- the No. 1-rated soundtrack, after all, had nine singles on the charts in one week. And there is some thought to making the musical a series.

There's no indication the original "High School Musical," which premiered in January, is cooling off. Its 10th showing at 8 p.m. Friday on the Disney Channel will probably do what the previous nine have done: dominate cable ratings for the night.

The soundtrack, which has topped 2 million in sales and is still at No. 3, is the year's bestselling release.

B5's version of the single "Get'cha Head in the Game" has been adopted by the National Basketball Assn. in its promos. And kids all over America are singing out its hits, from "Start of Something New" to "We're All in This Together."

"It's been a phenomenal thing," says producer Bill Borden, who came up with the idea of a "West Side Story"-"Grease" kind of musical for Disney's strong preteen audience. "I wanted to make a film that didn't speak down to anyone."

He also wanted to create a movie that boys would enjoy as much as girls. Boys are drawn to the basketball scenes elaborately choreographed by director Kenny Ortega, who choreographed "Xanadu" and "Dirty Dancing."

The story, set in Albuquerque, was shot at two Salt Lake City high schools over 25 days on a $5-million budget.

Buzz started early as the Disney Channel started promoting the stars and the music in videos late last year. Going online was crucial in building the audience, Borden says. They advertised at popular websites and made the music available through iTunes, where it first topped charts.

The initial screening of "High School Musical" attracted 7.7 million viewers -- the biggest audience for anything on cable that night and the most in Disney Channel history.

"In the nine showings it's had, it's won its time slot across the board every time ... ," Borden says. "It's set a record for the Disney Channel as being the highest-watched movie in its first showing and the highest-watched movie in its second showing."

Some subsequent showings have also included new dance-along and sing-along segments introduced by cast members. The DVD will be released in May.

"The kids all love the movie," Borden says.

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