Disney Channel’s new “High School Musical” series, which is being produced for Disney’s new as-yet unnamed streaming service, has a title and a plot. As revealed on Thursday, the 10-episode series will be called “High School Musical: The Musical,” and take a meta, docu-style approach to the franchise.
In “High School Musical: The Musical,” a group of students at fictional East High stage a performance of Disney’s “High School Musical” for their winter theater production. But as they plan the on-stage drama, they create as much drama off-stage.
Per Disney, each episode will include a song from the “High School Musical” trilogy of films, as well as on original song.
Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated screenwriter and former Broadway performer Tim Federle (“Ferdinand”) is executive producer with Oliver Goldstick (“Pretty Little Liars”).
“High School Musical” premiered as a Disney Channel musical film in 2006, directed by Kenny Ortega, and was one of the channel’s most-watched films of all time. It also spawned the 2007 TV sequel “High School Musical 2,” and the 2008 entry “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” which was released theatrically. Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, and Monique Coleman were among the stars.
Ortega and the original cast won’t be a part of the series; here’s a list of the new characters in the series:
RICKY – A snarky sweetheart, a B-minus student, and our star. Ricky’s been dating fellow junior Nini for a year. When she unexpectedly breaks up with Ricky, he launches a bold plan to get Nini back — by auditioning to star opposite her in the school’s production of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. Ricky’s class-clowning covers a deep fear that he’s not actually great at anything, except coasting by on charm. Constantly attempting get-rich-quick schemes with best friend and fellow skater Big Red. Stays up too late bingeing GoPro stunt videos on YouTube. Voted “Most likely to sleep through his alarm.”
NINI – The other star. Formerly relegated to the chorus of her school’s musicals, Nini just got back from summer camp, where she found her voice – and confidence — playing the lead in THE MUSIC MAN. Unfortunately, Nini also found a new boyfriend at camp. Drama. Fiercely loyal to her two moms, she’s stronger than she first appears: an iron butterfly. Never misses AMERICAN IDOL and THE VOICE (only after doing her homework, natch) and takes hour-long showers to sing Ariana Grande’s entire catalogue. Voted “Most likely to have a HAMILTON lyric as her senior quote.”
E.J. – Nini’s new love interest, the type of ambitious entrepre-nerd who brings homemade props to auditions. Don’t cross E.J. if you get something he wants — like a starring role, opposite “his” girl Nini. The son of two high-powered corporate attorneys, E.J. is supremely confident but secretly prone to anxiety attacks when anything goes off-plan. A future producer more than an actor, E.J. calls the Steve Jobs biography his “bible” and keeps a copy on his nightstand. Voted “Most likely to report another student for cheating on a test.”
ASHLYN – Brash and gutsy, Ashlyn’s mouthy attitude covers “new kid” self-doubt. A slightly woo-woo horoscope reader, she’s finding her place in the school hierarchy. Or trying to. (It helps that her cousin E.J. is a senior.) Worships Sara Bareilles and is an aspiring songwriter on the sly. Can’t wait till she’s old enough to vote, and she’ll march and protest in the meantime. Whether she’s cast in the musical or not, she’s got her eye on student council. Her most-used app is Headspace, for meditation (and because of her crush on the disembodied Buddha voice). Voted “Most likely to read your palm.”
BIG RED – Ricky’s lifelong wingman. A skate rat, Big Red is the spiritual cousin of both Bill and Ted: always fuzzy, he’s been sleep-deprived since preschool. Big Red is weirdly devastated by Ricky and Nini’s breakup — his surest role is as their wisecracking third wheel. He has secretly crushed on Nini since middle school, and her breakup with Ricky proves a moral best-friend dilemma. He joins the backstage crew to be “Nini-adjacent.” Wants to start a garage band, but keeps forgetting to learn an instrument. He’s addicted to true crime podcasts and THE WALKING DEAD, and yet he’s afraid of the dark. Voted “Most likely to believe aliens are real, bruh.”
GINA – Don’t call her an understudy, call her a “wonderstudy.” A polished pro with an Equity card and the unwavering belief that the drama teacher made a HUGE mistake not casting her as a lead. Gina is an entitled princess, but her ambition pales in comparison with her stage mother’s. Gina worries that she peaked in 6th grade, when she starred in a Canadian tour of ANNIE. Posts Instagram videos of her singing that go viral — and makes Nini seriously start to doubt her own talent. Voted “Most likely to push you down a flight of stairs.”
VIKRAM – Captain of the color guard and the student choreographer of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. Beyoncé is his iPhone lockscreen wallpaper, and he already has his Tony Award for Best Choreography speech written out. Vikram thinks of the drama teacher as a peer — he eats lunch in her office, and has been drinking espresso since 3rd grade. All of this, even though Vikram still sleeps with a stuffed elephant, and is terrified of failure. His most-used app is Starbucks. Voted “Most likely to stage a flash mob on a field trip.”
MISS JENN – The school’s new drama teacher, Miss Jenn is high-energy and low-reality. She truly believes musicals can save lives. If only she believed in telling the truth on her résumé. She’s moved back home to Utah after she left New York under mysterious circumstances, packing up in a hurry. Forces student choreographer Vikram to do a Kickstarter for the musical when the school board won’t give her the $50,000 budget she asks for. Suffers serious imposter syndrome and would ultimately do anything for these kids. Her most-used (and most-loathed) app is Tinder.
The Disney streaming service, expected to launch in 2019, will also include the series “High Fidelity,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” and new takes on Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel franchises, including a “Mighty Ducks” series, a “Muppets” series, an animated “Monsters, Inc.” series, and live-action Marvel and “Star Wars” (directed by Jon Favreau) series.