High School Musical 3 by Kenny Ortega

In Disney's “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” favorite high school students (ZAC EFRON, VANESSA HUDGENS, ASHLEY TISDALE, LUCAS GRABEEL, CORBIN BLEU and MONIQUE COLEMAN) hit senior year.

Amidst a basketball championship, prom and a big spring musical featuring all of the Wildcats, Troy and Gabriella vow to make every moment last as their lifelong college dreams put the future of their relationship in question.

A crew of sophomore Wildcats (MATT PROKOP, JUSTIN MARTIN, JEMMA MCKENZIE-BROWN) joins in the fun as the film's new music and exciting dance numbers take maximum advantage of the big screen.

Other actors reprising their roles from the first two Disney Channel movies include OLESYA RULIN, CHRIS WARREN JR., RYNE SANBORN, KAYCEE STROH, BART JOHNSON and ALYSON REED.

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” is directed and choreographed by Emmy Award-winning Kenny Ortega. Ortega, who helmed the first two films for Disney Channel, also adds new duties as executive producer. “High School Musical 3” is produced by Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush; Don Schain serves as coproducer. Peter Barsocchini, veteran HSM writer, penned the script.

Creating a Cultural Phenomenon

The phenomenon of “High School Musical” started out as an idea in producer Bill Borden's living room. “I wanted to make a musical that I could sit down and watch with my kids. It was that simple,” says Borden.

Although the musical had seen somewhat of a revival with the success of adult fare such as “Moulin Rouge!” and “Chicago,” no one was making musicals for the teen audience. “Bill and I are true believers in this particular genre¬ó-the musical for teens,” says Borden's producing partner Barry Rosenbush. “With the first movie, we weren't trying to invent the wheel, we were trying to reintroduce the wheel. “Movie history is filled with musical comedy for teens,” continues Rosenbush. “The movies back in the 1930s and 1940s, the movies that we grew to love, 'Westside Story,' 'The Sound of Music,' and later 'Grease,' were all for young people.”

Borden and Rosenbush were already working with writer Peter Barsocchini on another project when the idea for “High School Musical” gained momentum; they tapped him to write the screenplay. “They said they were doing a Disney project that involved music and sports,” says Barsocchini. “The world of music and sports was familiar to me. I played basketball during my youth and I was a music critic in the late 1960s in San Francisco.”

Multi-talented director-choreographer Kenny Ortega then joined the trio to bring this musical idea to the small screen. “Kenny has many unique talents which make him a really fantastic director,” says Borden. “He is a cmusician. He's a great dancer. He's a choreographer. He's an actor. He really does mold the screenplay. He can take a concept and make it come alive in a musical like no other person in the world. Kenny really is an amazing force of nature.”

“All I've ever tried to do here with 'High School Musical' was to enjoy telling a story from a musical point of view in a lighthearted and joyful way without having an overly complicated story and overly complicated characters,” says Ortega. “I just try to bring it to life with as much fun and joy and color and excitement as possible.”

The team fathered a creative phenomenon that would come to include cable television's highestever-rated telecast, the two highestever-rated Disney Channel movies, two multi-platinum soundtracks, a concert tour, an ice show, numerous awards and accolades, and a source of inspiration to teens worldwide. “There's something about teenage life that is the same all around the world,” says Borden.

Growing Up Is Making Choices

Bringing “HSM” from Disney Channel to a feature film was a dream-come-true for Ortega. “I've always wanted to direct a musical for the big screen.” So when it came time to continue the Wildcats' story in a big-screen format, Ortega was ready. “The first thing out of Kenny Ortega's mouth was 'I don't want to remake the first two movies. I want to be true to the 'High School Musical' feeling, but I want to let these kids grow up,'” remembers Barsocchini. “They're high school seniors, so let's give them the pressures that high school seniors have about prom, finals, graduation and going away. There's a balance. We're making musical comedy but we want to try and base it in some emotional reality.”

Ortega revels in being a part of a creative endeavor. “Peter has given us a wonderful blueprint and has been there with me all along in the development of the song placement,” he says. “We were able to do workshops with the actors and throw some improvs out there. The last drafts of this script were actually done in the company of all the actors and dancers in the rehearsal studio.”

Adds Borden, “Even though 'HSM3' is a big-screen feature film, we wanted to make sure it came out of the same world and has the same feeling as the first two.”

The filmmakers admit that a major picture's screen size and production crew did allow them to up the ante. “'High School Musical 3' features 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,” says Ortega.

Casting Favorites

Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu and Monique Coleman return to the roles they created in the international smash hit “High School Musical” and the record-breaking “High School Musical 2,” that catapulted them to the center of the worldwide “HSM” phenomenon.

“One of the untold stories of the 'High School Musical' franchise is how talented the cast really is,” says Barsocchini. “Yes, they've all become teen idols. But they're good young actors. Our principal cast has molded those characters into something that kids love. That's the secret.”

All About Chemistry

Ortega adds, “The chemistry the kids have with each other elevates it and makes it something more than just telling a fun story. They are the most generous lot you could ever hope to work with. They really come to work with the right things on their minds.”

Zac Efron

Favorite high school sweethearts Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez, played by Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, still front the troupe. “I'm very excited for 'High School Musical 3' to be on the big screen,” says Efron. “This is what we've been waiting for, what we've been working towards, and it feels great because I feel like we earned it. We're just regular kids that made 'High School Musical' and now it's progressing.”

Efron has grown up with his character. “Troy is a lot of different things,” he says. “He's a very average kid going through high school, dealing with everyday choices. But the fun thing about him is that he's got these hidden talents. So Troy's got a lot to balance: his basketball career, his newfound love of singing, and then of course, Gabriella. What'll happen to them after high school You don't know. It's like typical high school drama that we get to sing

According to writer Peter Barsocchini, the Troy Bolton character was inspired by the great Pittsburgh Steelers football player Lynn Swan. Barsocchini went to high school with Swan; they played on the same basketball team. “One day we were riding on a bus to a game and he said 'You know, I'd really like to try ballet,'” says Barsocchini. “There's the character. There's so much pressure on kids to be cool that it's tough to do something different.”

Adds co-producer Don Schain, “One of the big lessons from the first movie is to break stereotypes. The power forward wants to be a pastry chef. The star basketball player wants to be a thespian. The message to children is that you can be whatever you want to be.”

Gabriella, Played by Hudgens

“Troy Bolton has always planned to go to the local university with his best friend Chad,” explains Borden. “Now, because of his relationship with Gabriella and his relationship with the stage, he has some choices to make.” But Efron's character isn't the only one with choices, says the producer. “Vanessa's character is given a choice to go away to an early acceptance program at Stanford University.”

Adds Hudgens, “Gabriella has always been ruled by her head. In this movie, you see her kind of being torn by her heart and her head¬ómaking tough decisions, trying to figure out what to do with friends, family, relationships, school.”

Ortega appreciates Hudgens' unique blend of talents. “She continues to amaze me in the way that she grows as an actress. This girl can dance. This girl can sing. This girl can act. She's funny. She's everything. She's a real leading lady.”

“Shooting 'High School Musical 3' has been the most fun I've had on any of the movies,” says Hudgens. “We're all close now and we got to be with each other every day, working, goofing off and just being kids.”

Hudgens says she was home schooled,experiencing many of the typical high school experiences through “HSM.” “I've never been to a prom, so through this movie I got to experience my prom. I never went to my graduation, but I got to wear a cap and gown.”

Ashley Tisdale

Ashley Tisdale returns to her signature role as Sharpay Evans. “Sharpay is a character who the world loves,” says Barsocchini. “There's a part of every kid who would like to be Sharpay. She's a mean girl with a heart of gold¬ósort of. The name Sharpay actually comes from a dog who bit me.” “She is obviously the diva,” says Tisdale. “You love to hate her. Sharpay's the one who stirs the pot. But, I think deep down-¬óreally, really, really, really deep down-¬óshe's probably really sweet. Probably.”

“Ashley's my girl,” says Ortega. “She's just one in a million. I think Ashley is a classic in the making. I think she can deliver on many, many levels. She's just a fun spirit.”

In the story, Sharpay, Ryan, Kelsi and a surprised Troy are up for one prestigious Juilliard scholarship. “Of course, Sharpay wants to get that scholarship and does everything she can to eliminate the competition,” explains Borden.

Lucas Grabeel reprised his role as Sharpay's enigmatic brother Ryan Evans. “He's a show stealer,” says Ortega of Grabeel's character. “It's always been Sharpay's show and in this film, Ryan explodes onto the screen. Ryan really blossoms and you get a greater sense of him than ever before.”